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Wed. Apr 24th, 2024

Guatemala’s supreme court mandated the release of former anti-corruption prosecutor Virginia Laparra. Laparra had been sentenced to a four-year prison term in December 2022 for abuse of authority, a trial widely condemned by the international community.

The court’s criminal chamber issued the order to cease the preventive detention of Laparra, taking into account that she had already served nearly half of her sentence during the 10 months of imprisonment before her sentencing last December. The court instructed compliance with the ruling within the next five days.

Virginia Laparra, 43, held the position of chief in the Quetzaltenango region of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) when she was arrested in February 2022. Her arrest was perceived by many as retaliation for her anti-corruption endeavors. Laparra’s conviction for “abuse of authority” led to a commutable four-year term, with the possibility of sentence reduction upon payment of a fine, contingent upon the finality of the judgment.

The United States, the European Union, Amnesty International, and various human rights organizations criticized Laparra’s conviction. Meanwhile, she faces a second trial in Quetzaltenango for alleged disclosure of confidential information, with no set start date due to efforts by the prosecution to replace the presiding judge who had granted her house arrest in July.

Despite the house arrest order, Laparra remained incarcerated within a military barracks in the capital. Notably, she is among several former prosecutors detained in connection with corruption investigations. The crusade against these prosecutors was led by attorney general Consuelo Porras, who faced sanctions from the United States in 2021, labeling her as part of “corrupt” and “undemocratic” actors in Central America.

The Guatemalan attorney general’s office is accused by Washington of “undermining” democracy, particularly concerning an investigation into alleged illegalities in the August election won by opposition candidate Bernardo Arevalo, 65. These actions are viewed as attempts to impede Arevalo, who secured an unexpected victory on an anti-corruption platform, from assuming power on January 14.

E Guatemala, currently ranked 30th out of 180 countries by Transparency International in its corruption index, continues to grapple with the complex intersection of legal proceedings, political dynamics, and international scrutiny.

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