(AFP) – Oct 7, 2008
GUATEMALA CITY (AFP) — Guatemalan ex-president Alfonso Portillo, who was extradited from Mexico on Tuesday, said he had agreed to face corruption charges at home to end "savage" political persecution.
"I'm here because it means I'm going to confront the law. I decided to give myself up. I've suffered four and a half years' persecution from the last government," said Portillo on his arrival at a Guatemalan court.
A Guatemalan judge later released Portillo on bail of 132,450 dollars, and ordered him to stay in the country, a court statement said.
Guatemalan authorities accuse Portillo of transferring 15.8 million dollars from the Defense Ministry's budget, of which 4.6 million disappeared.
Portillo took refuge in Mexico at the end of his four-year presidential term in 2004, after he lost legislative immunity from prosecution.
Portillo said he had been "pursued in a savage and indiscriminate manner" by the Oscar Berger government that succeeded him, from 2004-2008, and accused it of running up 2.6 billion dollars in debts, compared with 398 million dollars of debt under his leadership.
"I'm coming here to confront the law and I have faith because now there is no government pressuring judicial authorities. I believe in the independence of judicial authorities, I believe I did not commit the crime I'm accused of," Portillo said.
Guatemala's acting president Rafael Espada, sitting in for President Alvaro Colom during his visit to Taiwan, said the government would avoid interfering in the case against Portillo.
"We're going to support the legal process," Espada said.
Mexico ordered Portillo extradited in 2006, but he appealed to Mexico's Supreme Court that the move was inconstitutional. The court ruled against him in January.
Mexican authorities said Tuesday that Portillo had been extradited "according to the terms of the extradition treaty," after giving his consent in writing last Friday.
Portillo's government received numerous corruption allegations, with several members suspected of opening European bank accounts.
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