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US grants political asylum to Guatemala ex anti-corruption prosecutor

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By Agence France-Presse

The United States on Monday granted political asylum to Guatemala’s former anti-corruption prosecutor Thelma Aldana, who fled to the US last year after a warrant was issued for her arrest over graft.

Guatemala's then-Attorney General Thelma Aldana participates in a news conference in Guatemala City. (REUTERS / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Guatemala’s then-Attorney General Thelma Aldana participates in a news conference in Guatemala City. (REUTERS / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Aldana was accused in March 2019 of the irregular purchase of a building for the public prosecutor and the creation of fake jobs during her 2014-18 tenure.

She denied the accusations and claims they were aimed at punishing her for fighting graft in the Central American country.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee announced Aldana’s asylum on Twitter.

“Thelma is a champion for justice and this is a major victory in the international fight against corruption,” committee chairman Eliot Engel said.

Aldana, 64, won the Swedish Rights Livelihood Prize in 2018 for her work against corruption and abuse of power.

Guatemala said last week it intended to ask the US to extradite her.

Aldana left Guatemala for El Salvador after the accusations, which also forced her to abandon a run for the presidency.

She subsequently traveled to the US.

In 2017, Aldana allegedly approved the purchase of a building for around 10 percent more than its true value, according to investigators.

Aldana says the accusations against her are retribution for her collaboration with the UN’s International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

The UN body’s 12-year mission came to an end in September when then-president Jimmy Morales closed it down after being angered by its calls for his immunity to be lifted so he could be investigated over alleged illegal campaign funding.

Following the extradition request, Aldana accused Attorney General Consuelo Porras of being “sent by the mafia for revenge.”

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