GUATEMALA CITY – Three Guatemalan judges considering the U.S. extradition request for a former president of the Central American country said in court on Wednesday that the lives of their families had been threatened.
Alfonso Portillo, who governed Guatemala from 2000-2004, is wanted in the United States on charges he used New York banks to launder $70 million in embezzled government funds.
An anonymous caller telephoned the court to say that relatives of the three jurists had been abducted and would be killed if the proceedings were not halted, presiding Judge Morelia Rios said Wednesday from the bench.
“If you don’t suspend the hearing in 15 minutes, we kill them,” a visibly upset Rios said, quoting the caller’s threat against her loved ones and those of colleagues Belgica Deras and Isaias Figueroa.
At the beginning of the hearing, the judges rejected a motion by defense attorney Telesforo Guerra to postpone the session pending a ruling on Portillo’s legal challenge – before another court – to the constitutionality of the extradition.
But once Rios mentioned the threat, Guerra urged that the session continue, and the proceedings soon resumed amid beefed up security in the courtroom.
Court sources told reporters the judges could render a decision as early as Wednesday, though they have three working days to make their ruling. EFE