Five members of Guatemala's anti-corruption prosecutor's office quit

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GUATEMALA CITY, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Five members of Guatemala's anti-corruption prosecutor's office have resigned from their posts this month, the Public Ministry said on Monday, after two of them publicly denounced what they called unjust prosecution.

Another four anti-corruption officials have been arrested in recent weeks amid a brewing political crisis.

Juan Luis Pantaleon, a spokesman for the Public Ministry, confirmed the resignations of three public prosecutors and two assistants from the Special Prosecutor's Office against Impunity (FECI), without elaborating on the reasons they gave for leaving their posts.

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Rudy Herrera, one of the FECI prosecutors who resigned, had a warrant issued for his arrest but left the country last week.

Now in Washington D.C., Herrera said in a statement there was a campaign of persecution against independent justice operators with the aim of "guaranteeing impunity to criminal networks."

Former prosecutor Carlos Videz, who also resigned, made similar allegations.

"To prevent an attempt on my life, I made the difficult decision to resign and leave the country to avoid being one more victim of unjust persecution," Videz said in a statement.

Videz had accused Attorney General Maria Porras of allowing criminal networks to go unpunished and to expedite cases against human rights defenders and independent justice operators.

Pantaleón rejected the accusations of persecution against independent judicial officials as well as Videz's accusations against Porras.

In addition to the resignations, Guatemala's attorney general's office has already arrested three FECI members, including a prosecutor, on charges of abuse of authority and witness coercion, as well as a lawyer for the now-defunct International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG), for obstruction of justice read more

FECI collaborated with the CICIG, a U.N. body that was expelled from Guatemala in 2018, after successfully imprisoning former presidents, officials and businessmen involved in corruption cases.

The political crisis started in July last year when the FECI began investigating Porras' dismissal of former head of the entity Juan Francisco Sandoval. Sandoval had accused the attorney general of obstructing investigations related to President Alejandro Giammattei. read more

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Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by Adriana Barrera, Robert Birsel

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