Peru’s Supreme Court said Thursday that the country’s former president Pedro Castillo must stay in jail for another 18 months. Castillo was arrested last week, which caused deadly unrest in the South American country.
Castillo was removed from office and incarcerated after he tried to get rid of the legislature and said he would rule by decree. His opponents say he did this to avoid an impeachment vote while several corruption probes were going on.
Alcides Diaz, a public prosecutor, says that the leftist former teacher is being charged with rebellion and conspiracy. He could go to jail for up to 10 years if found guilty.
Prosecutors asked the Supreme Court to keep Castillo in jail because he was a flight risk after he tried to get asylum at the Mexican embassy in Lima. The judge agreed. The detention order is in effect until June 2024.
His removal from office has led to protests all over the country, and the health ministry and regional authorities say that 15 people have died. Even though there is a state of emergency, thousands of people rally daily, including Thursday in Lima, the capital.
At least seven people were killed Thursday in the southern city of Ayacucho when the military and Castillo’s supporters battled. According to the country’s ombudsman, two more people were killed in fighting near the airport.
The ombudsman said 340 people were hurt, and the police said that at least half were in their ranks.
Castillo’s supporters, who number in the dozens and have set up camps outside the prison where he is being held in the capital, aren’t giving up.
Rolando Arana, 38, said in Lima after the court decided to keep Castillo in jail, “I don’t agree with the Peruvian justice system at all because everything is for sale.”
“The president has been kidnapped. There is no other word for it,” said Lucy Carranza, who is 41 years old.
Thursday, about 300 people marched near the prison while shouting “Freedom for Castillo.” Police were there to keep an eye on them.
Dina Boluarte, the country’s former vice president who became president quickly after Castillo’s arrest, declared a 30-day state of emergency on Wednesday.
On Thursday, she urged Congress to pass a change to the constitution that would let her move elections from July 2026 to December 2023.
Pro-Castillo protesters, including Indigenous people from the Amazon regions in the centre and southeast of Peru, have been calling for new elections as one of their main goals.
Because of the protests, four airports have been closed, and more than 100 roads across the country are still blocked.
Train service to Machu Picchu, Peru’s most popular tourist site, was stopped, leaving hundreds of tourists stranded. Machu Picchu is an Inca citadel from the 15th century.
Protest leaders have said that they will hold more demonstrations on Friday. They want Castillo to be freed, Boluarte to step down, Congress to be shut down, and new elections to be held.
At Castillo’s release hearing, neither he nor his lawyers were there.
The judge said Castillo didn’t show up when he was told to, so his case was given to a public defender.
The hearing was supposed to occur on Wednesday when Castillo’s initial seven-day detention ended. However, it was pushed back by 24 hours because the former leader’s lawyers said that prosecutors needed to give them the documents they required in the case.
Castillo has said that his arrest was unfair and random and asked the police to “stop killing” protesters.
Vilma Vasquez, Castillo’s niece, spoke outside the prison where he is being held. She said that Castillo’s political opponents had started a smear campaign against him even before he became president last year.
“We were called terrorists from the day he took office and even during the election campaign,” said Vasquez.
“They didn’t let him govern; we were thieves and corrupt. We’re going to stay here until he leaves” prison.
Before Castillo was elected, his opponents tried to make it look like he was a dangerous communist and a supporter of the Shining Path rebels, who caused a lot of trouble in the 1980s and 1990s. Castillo says he fought against guerrillas who supported Mao Zedong.
He was in charge of Peru for only 17 months. Peru’s government is often unstable, and he was the sixth leader in six years.
During his short time in office, he and his family were investigated six times, mostly for corruption, and there was a power struggle with the opposition-led Congress.