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Arrest judges linked to U.N.-backed anti-graft body: Guatemalan panel

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - A newly-created Guatemalan congressional commission recommended on Friday the arrest of judges and prosecutors who it claims committed abuses while working with a U.N.-backed anti-corruption body that the outgoing president bitterly opposed.

President-elect Alejandro Giammattei, who is set to assume office next week, has not commented on the explosive recommendations. Giammattei’s stance on the matter will send an important signal on his anti-graft agenda as he begins his four year term.

The commission recommendations formally rest with Attorney General Maria Consuelo Porras, who has also not said whether she will act on them.

Dubbed a “Truth Commission,” the panel is made up of three conservative members of the 158-member legislature, all allies of outgoing President Jimmy Morales who commands majority support in the Congress.

Established in October, the congressional commission has for weeks heard testimony from those investigated by the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, or CICIG, who alleged illegalities and abuses in their cases.

“The prosecutors, judges and magistrates involved should be investigated... they should remember that they are not immune or above the law,” the commission stated in a report issued on Friday that also requested arrest warrants for those who worked with CICIG.

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for “the Guatemalan authorities to protect the rights and ensure the safety and security of former CICIG staff” in a statement issued on Friday, adding that the body made a “decisive contribution towards eradicating corruption and impunity” in the country.

The anti-graft body was set up over a decade ago as part of a joint U.N.-Guatemala agreement with authority to conduct independent investigations and work with the country’s prosecutors. Among dozens of successful cases it helped pursue, former President Otto Perez Molina turned himself to authorities and was jailed in 2015 on corruption charges.

The CICIG also went after Morales, who won the presidency on a slogan of “not corrupt or a thief”, and said last August he would not renew the organization’s mandate which was due to expire in September.

Days later, he banned CICIG head Ivan Velasquez, a hard-charging Colombian prosecutor, from re-entering the country.

Morales was accused by CICIG of campaign finance violations, and his brother and son also faced a corruption trial, but were ultimately released. Morales has denied any wrongdoing.

Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Editing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Shri Navaratnam