SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - A judge ordered former El Salvador President Francisco Flores to be held under house arrest after he turned himself in on Friday to await trial on corruption charges.
Flores, who was president of the Central American country from 1999 to 2004, had been on the run since January and has been accused of misappropriating $15 million donated by Taiwan for earthquake relief efforts in 2001.
Earlier on Friday, Flores handed himself into Judge Levis Orellana accompanied by his lawyers. A few hours later Orellana ordered Flores to be held under house arrest, said judiciary spokesman Ulises Marinero.
“I presented myself voluntarily and in respect of the law. I don’t think I’ll be able to make any other comments right now,” Flores said, flanked by police as he left the courtroom before heading to his home in an upscale part of San Salvador.
Dozens of people had gathered outside the courtroom to protest the former president’s alleged corruption, calling for his imprisonment.
Prosecuting attorney Bertha de Leon told reporters the prosecution would appeal the judge’s decision, arguing that Flores should be imprisoned after being on the run for months.
“For us, the judge’s decision is not technically correct; for us, the judge has ignored what needed to be done; he has ignored the circumstances and the facts, and has favored him with this decision,” she said.
Flores’ alleged corruption came to light when former President Mauricio Funes, who ruled the country from 2009 to 2014, revealed that the United States was investigating Flores for suspicious movements into his bank accounts.
According to the allegations against him, the money Flores received came from former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, who was found guilty of corruption in 2009 and imprisoned, originally for life before his sentence was reduced.
Flores is believed to have been in Panama. An Interpol red notice, the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant, had been issued against him.
Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Richard Chang