Belgium blocks extradition request against former Ecuador President

Belgium blocks extradition request against former Ecuador President
Credit: Laurie Dieffembacq / Belga

A Belgian court has reportedly rejected a request from the Ecuadorian justice system to extradite former President Rafael Correa, who currently resides in Brussels with his Belgian wife. The rejected request was announced on Friday by Correa's lawyers.

Former President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, was sentenced in November 2021 to eight years in prison on corruption charges, which he has strongly denied. Last week, Belgian courts reportedly threw out the extradition request by Ecuadorian authorities on the grounds of political persecution.

A law firm working on the case clarified the position of the Belgian Ministry of Justice: "Belgium refuses to cooperate with Ecuadorian judiciary in the context of political trials”. However, there has yet to be an official announcement from Belgian authorities.

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As a result of the ongoing campaign against him in Ecuador, Correa was granted political asylum in Belgium on 15 April preventing authorities in Ecuador from extraditing the leftist former president.

Prosecutors claim that Correa was aware of bribes being paid by construction companies to politicians. Correa denied the allegations saying he was the victim of political persecution from his successors in office. Belgium's latest rebuff of extradition efforts by Ecuadorian authorities add weight to Correa's claim that he is being politically persecuted.

Campaign of lawfare

Correa was President of Ecuador between 2007 and 2017 and is considered to be part of the 'pink tide' in South America – a wave of popular rejection of neoliberal economic policy in favour of left-wing governments.

In 2018, political opponents tried to pin the kidnapping of an opposition politician on Correa, which led him to officially seek asylum in Belgium, as he denied any link to the case. Interpol also refused to add him to the red notice list, reportedly rejecting the latest request from Ecuador authorities last week.

Defenders of Correa have suggested that his sentencing in November 2021 echoes the case of the former Brazilian President Lula, now acquitted on false corruption charges, claiming a wider campaign of lawfare against popular left-wing movements.

Current President of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, is also under investigation over his repeated appearance in the Pandora Papers in October 2021, which linked him to offshore companies and trusts including in Panama and the U.S. state of South Dakota.

Lasso refused to testify in parliament but claimed he had ended his association with these firms prior to running for office.

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