Ecuador Judge Wants Ex-President Extradited in Kidnapping Probe

(Bloomberg) -- A judge ordered the pre-trial detention of Rafael Correa after the former Ecuadorian president failed to appear before court on allegations he ordered the kidnapping of a political opponent.

Correa, who governed Ecuador for a record consecutive 10 years, now risks arrest and extradition to his home country from Belgium, where he moved a year ago with his Belgian wife and children.

Should Correa be arrested, he will be the second of Latin America’s self-styled socialist leaders who dominated the continent before 2016 to spend time in jail, after Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Correa’s lawyer, Caupolican Ochoa, told reporters that the court has not observed due process in the case. The failure of Correa to appear before the court didn’t merit the order to arrest him, he said.

"This is about revenge," Ochoa said.

Prosecutor Paul Perez asked for Correa to be put on Interpol’s red notice list for his arrest and extradition.

Correa is accused of participating in the attempted kidnapping in 2012 of Fernando Balda, a legislator for the opposition Patriotic Society Party who had fled to Colombia after saying that Correa headed a domestic espionage system. Colombian police foiled Balda’s kidnapping, and the trail led to Ecuadorian police, one of whom had rented the kidnappers’ car under his own name.

The prosecution in Quito however froze the case, only resuming the investigation this year following changes in the judiciary under Ecuador’s new president, Lenin Moreno. Correa denies all charges, calling it a political vendetta and "judicial persecution."

The prosecution has until July 17 to wrap up the pre-trial investigation. In a separate case, Comptroller General Pablo Celi has asked prosecutors to investigate crimes allegedly committed by Correa in conjunction with the issuance of public debt after 2012.

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