The arrest of Pedro Castillo on charges of “rebellion” and “conspiracy” has fueled a political crisis.
Peru’s Supreme Court has granted a request to extend the detention of former President Pedro Castillo by 18 months as authorities charge him with “rebellion” and “conspiracy”.
Thursday’s decision is expected to further fuel the political unrest and protests that have rocked the South American nation since Castillo’s impeachment and imprisonment last week.
Protesters have called for the embattled leader’s release from prison, as well as new elections and the removal of his successor, former Vice President Dina Boluarte.
The Boluarte government on Wednesday declared a nationwide state of emergency, suspending freedom of movement and assembly in a bid to quell the unrest that has killed at least eight people so far.
In Thursday’s decision, a Supreme Court judiciary panel ruled that Castillo, who was originally jailed for seven days, will remain behind bars while prosecutors continue their investigation into the criminal charges against him.
The decision did not affect the merits of the allegations Castillo faced, but a judge presiding over the panel cited the former president’s risk of absconding.
Castillo has denied the allegations against him, saying he is being held “unjustly and arbitrarily” at a police facility near the capital Lima.
Earlier this week he called on his supporters to go to jail to demand his release and called on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to intercede on his behalf.
“That’s enough! The outrage, humiliation and abuse continues. Today they restrict my freedom again with 18 months in custody,” Castillo wrote in a message posted on Twitter.
“I hold judges and prosecutors accountable for what happens in the country.”
The opposition-held Congress in Peru ousted Castillo last Wednesday, just hours after the left-wing leader announced plans to “temporarily” dissolve the legislature and rule by decree.
The move was widely denounced as violating Peru’s constitution, and Boluarte – Castillo’s former vice president – was sworn in soon after his impeachment.
Boluarte, the country’s first female president, has called for calm amid ongoing demonstrations that have taken place particularly in rural parts of the country, which form Castillo’s stronghold.
“Peru cannot be spilled with blood,” she said on Wednesday, the same day her government declared a nationwide 30-day state of emergency.
The move suspends certain civil liberties and grants police special powers to break up demonstrations, roadblocks and other protests.
Four airports have been closed due to the protests, while hundreds of tourists have been stranded at Peru’s popular tourist attraction Machu Picchu after train services to the location were suspended.
Local TV footage Thursday showed a line of dozens of vehicles stranded on the side of a major coastal road south of Lima and hundreds of protesters laying stones on roads in the Andean regions of Puno, Cusco and Arequipa.
Protest leaders have announced they will hold new demonstrations on Friday to demand the release of Castillo, Boluarte’s resignation, the closure of Congress and new elections.
After initially saying she plans to complete the remaining three-and-a-half years of Castillo’s tenure, Boluarte said this week a new vote could take place in April 2024.
Then she pushed the date closer again, to December next year.