Lawyer for ex-Ecuador VP demands access to him in prison

By Thomson Reuters Apr 8, 2024 | 1:13 PM

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) – A lawyer for Ecuador’s detained former Vice President Jorge Glas demanded in a letter to prison officials that she and others be allowed access to the politician, saying on Monday his legal team has been unable to contact him.

Glas, already twice convicted of corruption and now facing fresh charges, was arrested on Friday after a raid by police on Mexico’s Quito embassy, where he had been living since December.

The unusual raid took a simmering spat between the two countries to boiling point, leading Mexico to suspend diplomatic relations with Ecuador and drawing criticism from countries around the region and world.

Ecuador has defended its violation of sovereign Mexican territory at the embassy, arguing the North American country cannot grant Glas asylum if he is facing charges, and that Ecuador had information about an imminent escape plan.

In an open letter to the administrators of the La Roca prison in Guayaquil dated on Sunday, Glas’ lawyer Sonia Vera expressed her “deep worry and alarm at the total impossibility of establishing communication with our client during more than 48 hours,” saying it was “a severe infraction to the fundamental rights of Jorge Glas.”

Glas’ safety and well-being could be in danger, she added, asking for unlimited in-person contact for Glas with his lawyers.

Glas was thrown to the floor and hit in several places during the raid, Vera said during a press conference on Monday.

The SNAI prisons agency told Reuters that in the interest of safety it will not comment on the letter for now.

Leftist Glas, who was vice president between 2013 and 2017, was first sentenced to six years for taking bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht in return for state contracts.

He was convicted again in 2020 of using money from contractors to fund campaigns for President Rafael Correa’s political movement and given an eight-year sentence.

Glas, who served more than four years in prison before being released in 2022, has long alleged the charges are politically-motivated, an accusation prosecutors have denied.

He now faces charges of misusing funds collected to aid reconstruction of coastal Manabi province after a devastating 2016 earthquake.

President Daniel Noboa did not refer directly to the dispute with Mexico at an event celebrating youth employment on Monday.

“The government has a utopia which should be a reality, an Ecuador without impunity, where every sentenced criminal completes their sentence in jail, cost what it may,” Noboa said.

Prison violence is common in Ecuador, where hundreds of inmates have been killed in recent years.

Mexican Foreign Minister Alicia Barcena said on Monday that the head of Ecuador’s diplomatic mission to her country will not be asked to leave, stressing Mexico wants to calm tensions.

“We’re not going to follow the same recipe,” Barcena said at Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s morning press conference.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Bill Berkrot)