A judge in Peru has ordered Pedro Castillo detained for seven days while authorities investigate charges of “rebellion and conspiracy” against the former president, who was ousted and arrested this week.
Castillo made his first appearance in court via videoconference on Thursday, just a day after Congress voted overwhelmingly to remove him in a third round of impeachment from his controversial and short-lived position.
The court of first instance on Thursday wanted to review the legality of Castillo’s arrest, as well as to affect the request of the attorney general’s office for the charges that led to the rebellion.
Looking distraught and nervous, the former teachers union leader gave simple yes or no answers and declined when asked if he wanted to address the court. A few hours after the trial, Castillo was ordered to spend seven days in jail while the investigation is underway.
Peru’s opposition parliament voted to remove Castillo from office on Wednesday afternoon, just hours after the left-wing leader signaled that he wanted to “temporarily remove” Congress and rule by law.
Castillo said he wanted to “reestablish the rule of law and democracy” in the South American country but his announcement drew criticism from viewers who accused the president of committing a “treason”.
After Congress successfully passed the impeachment vote, Castillo was taken into police custody in the capital, Lima. He is in police custody where former President Alberto Fujimori, who was found guilty of human rights violations, was also arrested.
Peru’s public prosecutor’s office said it raided the president’s office and other offices in Lima in search of evidence against Castillo.
Castillo’s defense team said he was summarily removed from the presidency of Peru on trumped-up charges of rebellion. “It is clear that the crime of rebellion was not committed” because it did not happen, argued one of his lawyers, Victor Perez.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador revealed on Thursday that Castillo had called his office to request protection from his country’s embassy, which he planned to grant, but the Peruvian leader was arrested before he could arrive.
Mexico’s ambassador to Peru was able to meet with Castillo where he is being held, Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said.
Al Jazeera’s Mariana Sanchez, reporting from outside the Lima prison where Castillo is being held, said a small group of his supporters gathered outside the prison on Thursday. “[They] they have been deeply affected by Castillo’s life,” Sanchez said.
“The prosecutors have asked [for] early confinement. Castillo will be here [in prison] because there is a danger, according to the prosecutors, that he can escape,” he added.
Meanwhile, Dina Boluarte, who was sworn in Wednesday afternoon as Peru’s first female president after voting, called for a “solidarity” to unite a country that has suffered years of political instability and division.
Boluarte, who was Castillo’s former vice president, also said he would consider holding early elections – which would require approval of complex constitutional changes. “I know that there are voices that show the early elections and this is respectable in democracy,” Boluarte said on Thursday.
Castillo’s dramatic fall came after he ousted his right-wing rival, Keiko Fujimori, in a split 2021 election.
But his administration was plagued with allegations of corruption almost from the beginning. The politician also accused him of not doing well when he appointed five ministers and about 80 ministers in more than a year and a half.
His latest legal battle began in October when the prosecutor’s office sued Castillo for leading a “gang” to profit from government contracts and obstructing investigations.
Congress summoned him last week to respond to allegations of “moral lapses” in governing. Castillo called the claims “slanderous” by groups that want to “take advantage and seize the power that the people took from them in the elections”.
On Thursday, Colombia’s leftist President Gustavo Petro said Castillo had “committed political suicide” by using a rarely used platform to fight his opponents in Congress, who he said had not allowed Castillo to rule.
“Anti-democracy cannot be fought against anti-democracy,” Petro said, echoing similar comments by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Petro also asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to intervene, saying that Castillo could not be given a fair trial in Peru.