Ecuador court orders ex-president Correa's arrest

Image source, AFP/Getty
Image caption,
Rafael Correa denies any involvement in the botched kidnapping

A court in Ecuador ordered the arrest of former president Rafael Correa on Tuesday over his alleged involvement in the 2012 kidnapping of an opponent.

Mr Correa, who now lives in his wife's native Belgium, denies the allegations.

Judge Daniella Camacho said she has alerted Interpol in a bid to have the 55-year-old extradited.

Former lawmaker Fernando Balda was briefly kidnapped in Bogotá, Colombia, where he fled during escalating tensions with Mr Correa.

He accuses the then-president, who led the Andean nation between 2007 and 2017, of masterminding the abduction.

At the time, Mr Balda faced charges in relation to a failed 2010 coup against Mr Correa, and he was later sentenced to one year in jail for endangering state security.

On Tuesday, the judge said Mr Correa had failed to comply with an order to appear in court in Quito to assist with an investigation into the kidnapping claims.

The ex-president instead presented himself to the Ecuadorean consulate in Brussels, which the judge said was a violation of her orders.

The three-term ex-president has repeatedly insisted to have had nothing to do with the botched abduction - which was intercepted by police after a few hours.

He recently tweeted: "They'll never prove anything, because there is nothing."

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Fernando Balda (c) accuses the former president with orchestrating his attempted kidnapping in 2012

He accuses the current president, his former deputy Lenín Moreno, of conducting a smear campaign against him. The once-allied left-wing leaders split very publicly after Mr Moreno's election in May 2017.

Mr Correa's lawyer told journalists that the latest decision was a result of political pressure from Mr Moreno, adding that he would appeal.

"This decision is arbitrary, it is a lie, it is defamatory," Caupolican Ochoa said. "I do not believe they are seeking justice but rather revenge."

Arrest warrants have already been issued for three police intelligence agents, an ex-police commander and a former top intelligence official, who was arrested in Spain last month.