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Quito (AFP) – Belgium has refused to extradite former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, his lawyers said on Friday, after Brussels recently granted him asylum.
The former socialist leader was sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison in his home country, for a pay-for-play policy that involved accepting funds for his 2013 election campaign in exchange for state contracts to worth about $7 million.
After leaving office in 2017, Correa moved to Belgium – his wife’s home country – where he has lived ever since.
Belgium’s asylum decision was made public on April 22, the same week that the president of Ecuador’s National Court of Justice signed his extradition request.
“The Belgian Ministry of Justice now confirms (…) that it will not proceed with Ecuador’s extradition request,” read a statement from the law firm Jus Cogens.
“Belgium will also refuse to cooperate with Ecuadorian justice in the context of political processes,” he added.
Correa, who insisted on his innocence, told AFP that Belgium’s asylum decision proved there was a political agenda behind his “persecution”.
“There is no justice in Ecuador, everything is corrupt,” the 59-year-old said in April.
Ecuadorian justice says Correa and several former government officials and businessmen participated in the bribery scheme, with the ex-president involving a payment of more than $6,000 to his private account, which he claims was a loan .
Correa also faces an arrest warrant for the 2012 kidnapping of a Colombian opposition politician.
Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Holguin told reporters that there was no political persecution in his country.
“Every citizen who goes through the Ecuadorian justice system has the right to due process,” he said.
According to the independent World Justice Project, Ecuador ranked 92nd out of 139 countries in last year’s rule of law index.
© 2022 AFP