Peru’s ousted former president Pedro Castillo will remain in pre-trial detention for 18 months, the country’s Supreme Court ordered on Thursday, as crowds of his supporters protested outside the courthouse and across the country.
Castillo, a former teacher and union leader in rural Peru, was impeached and removed from office last week after trying to dissolve Congress and install an emergency government, a tactic lawmakers have called a coup attempt. state.
He has since been accused of rebellion and conspiracy, which he denies.
The lengthy detention reflects the complexity of the case and possible flight risk, said Supreme Court Justice Juan Carlos Checkley, after prosecutors warned the former president could seek asylum outside the country and said 18 months would cover the duration of their investigations. Castillo’s lawyers say the former leader is not a flight risk.
Castillo himself did not speak in court. But in another hearing earlier this week, he defended his actions, saying “I have never committed the crime of conspiracy or rebellion” and adding that he still considered himself president.
“I will never resign or abandon this popular cause,” he said at the time.
In the days following his removal from office, Castillo’s supporters took to the streets in cities across the Andean nation, in what some protesters described as a “national insurrection”.
“Peru has declared itself in a state of insurrection, a national insurrection, because we do not owe obedience to a usurping government,” a protester in Lima said Thursday, referring to Castillo’s successor and former vice president Dina Boluarte, who quickly lent sworn in to the presidency by Congress hours after his former boss was impeached.
Another protester described Peru’s judicial system as “corrupt” and Castillo’s detention as a kidnapping.
“(Castillo) has been kidnapped, we are outraged, it is the national uprising in Peru,” he told Reuters news agency.
At least 11 people died during the demonstrations. On Thursday, four were killed and at least 39 injured after protesters clashed with police near an airport in Peru’s southern Ayacucho region, according to the local health department.
Peru’s current government has responded to protesters with both carrot and stick. President Boluarte has offered the possibility of calling early elections, while her defense minister, Luis Alberto Otárola, this week declared a state of emergency and deployed troops in the square.
But so far efforts to dampen the protests appear to have failed to address the central grievances of protesters, who view the country’s political landscape as corrupt and disorganized, and accuse Peru’s elite of unjustly toppling their elected leader.
“If the people in Congress consider themselves so democratic, then respect the voice of the people, respect what we voted for (Castillo),” protester Sonia Castaneda told Reuters.
Protesters also called for general elections, the dissolution of Congress and the creation of a new constituent assembly.
Their anger has been magnified by some leftist leaders in the region. In a joint statement on Monday, the governments of Colombia, Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia expressed concern over Castillo’s fate, saying he had been the victim of “undemocratic harassment” since his election last year and urging Peru to honor results of last year’s presidential elections. vote.
Peru responded on Thursday by convening ambassadors for a consultation on “interference” in Peru’s “internal affairs”, Foreign Minister Ana Cecilia Gervasi said on social media.
Castillo – who had never held public office before becoming president – campaigned promising to redistribute wealth and lift up the country’s poorest.
But his government was mired in chaos, with dozens of ministers appointed, replaced, sacked or fired in just over a year. Castillo himself faced multiple corruption probes and two failed impeachment attempts before being ousted last week.