Prosecutors seek to lift Guatemala president’s immunity

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FILE – This Jan. 14, 2018 file photo shows Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales at his second annual State of the Nation, in Guatemala City. The office of Attorney General and the United Nations International Commission Against Impunity are asking the Guatemalan Supreme Court to withdraw Morales’ immunity from prosecution to investigate him on allegations of illicit election campaign financing by his party. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo, File)

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemalan prosecutors and a United Nations-backed anti-graft commission sought for a third time Friday to have President Jimmy Morales’ immunity of office lifted so they can investigate him for possible illicit electoral financing.

Maria Consuelo Porras, chief prosecutor and head of the Public Ministry, said the request was in relation to Morales’ time as secretary-general of his political party, before his election in 2016.

Morales, who is suspected of receiving at least $1 million in undeclared campaign contributions from business interests in 2015, has denied wrongdoing in the past and said attempts to investigate him are politically motivated.

In a statement, his office said the president respects the rule of law and “reiterates his commitment to institutions in the country, to legal order and due process.”

Twice last year prosecutors tried without success to have the president’s immunity lifted. The first time, the Supreme Court allowed the request to progress to the congress where there were not sufficient votes to lift Morales’ immunity. The second time, the court did not allow it to progress that far.

Those attempts happened on the watch of then-chief prosecutor Thelma Aldana, who was internationally recognized for her aggressive anti-corruption investigations in tandem with the U.N. commission, known as Cicig for its initials in Spanish.

The new request comes under the leadership of Porras, who was chosen by Morales to replace Aldana.

She said it was based on newly discovered evidence in the case.