Ecuador judge orders Belgium-based ex-president Correa be jailed

QUITO (Reuters) - An Ecuadorean judge on Tuesday ordered that ex-President Rafael Correa be jailed as part of a case involving the kidnapping of a lawmaker, setting up a showdown with the Belgium-based leftist politician who vowed to appeal and defy the orders.

FILE PHOTO: Ecuador's former President Rafael Correa addresses followers during a convention for his Alianza Pais party in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, December 3, 2017. REUTERS/Daniel Tapia

In 2012, former opposition lawmaker Fernando Balda was briefly kidnapped in neighboring Colombia, where he had fled after being sentenced to two years in prison for slander against Correa.

Balda accused Correa of having orchestrated the kidnapping, which the Colombian police broke up after a few hours.

Correa, who governed the Andean country for a decade, has always said he had nothing to do with the incident and has accused his successor Lenin Moreno of seeking to smear his administration for political gain.

The state prosecutor’s office in June requested that Correa be linked to the proceedings as the “author” of the incident.

Judge Daniella Camacho accepted that request and ordered Correa, who is living in Belgium, where his wife is from, to present himself in Ecuadorean courts every two weeks.

Instead, Correa on Monday presented himself to the Ecuadorean consulate in Belgium, which the judge on Tuesday termed a violation of her orders.

“Judge Daniella Camacho receives the prosecutor’s request and orders preventive prison for ex-president Rafael C. for his alleged participation in the crime of illicit association and kidnapping,” the Ecuadorean prosecutor’s office said on Twitter.

“A request will be submitted to Interpol for his capture, with the aim of extraditing him.”

Correa’s lawyer Caupolican Ochoa said the decision was a result of political pressures from Moreno, who was once an ally of Correa but turned on his mentor after being elected last year.

“This decision is arbitrary, it is a lie, it is defamatory. I do not believe they are seeking justice but rather revenge,” Ochoa told journalists at the end of the hearing, adding he would appeal.

Right after the decision, Correa tweeted that any attempt to jail him would fail.

“I’m well. Do not worry,” Correa tweeted. “They will seek to humiliate us and make us suffer a tough time, but a monstrosity like this will NEVER prosper in a country like Belgium with rule of law.”

Additional reporting by José Llangarí; writing by Alexandra Ulmer; editing by Chris Reese and Richard Chang