Peru's Highest Court Orders Release of Ex-President Humala

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(Bloomberg) -- Peru’s Constitutional Court ordered the release of former President Ollanta Humala and his wife, Nadine Heredia, who were jailed nine months ago pending a trial on money laundering allegations.

The country’s highest court ruled in a 4-3 vote to grant the couple’s habeas corpus request, paving the way for their immediate release, the court’s president, Ernesto Blume, told reporters Thursday in Lima.

Humala, who left office in July 2016, and his wife were jailed last July after prosecutors alleged they laundered money during two election campaigns, including a $3 million donation from disgraced Brazilian builder Odebrecht SA. The couple haven’t been formally charged and deny any wrongdoing.

Blume said the tribunal is responsible for guaranteeing fundamental human rights including due process and the presumption of innocence, and didn’t judge the allegations against Humala and Heredia, which is the role of lower courts.

Carwash, Preventive Detention

Their release is the biggest setback yet for prosecutors investigating the so-called Carwash case, which has implicated former Peruvian presidents, ministers and company officials. Preventive detention orders against former executives from Grana y Montero SAA, Peru’s biggest builder, and two other construction firms have been overturned in recent weeks.

The head of the national magistrates council, Orlando Velasquez, has called for a reevaluation of the use of preventive detention orders, which he says violate constitutional rights.

The decision “puts an end to the abuse of preventive detention that exists in the Peruvian justice system today,” said Humala’s lawyer, Cesar Nakazaki, via Twitter.

Prosecutors are seeking the extradition of former President Alejandro Toledo from the U.S. to face trial for alleged graft. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski quit as president of Peru last month after becoming ensnared in Carwash and has been barred from leaving the country.

Writing in El Comercio newspaper on April 9, Humala said he and his wife never posed a flight risk and denied the alleged campaign donations existed.

“The Constitutional Court will always be a thermometer of how strong our democracy is,” he wrote.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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