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Peru’s ousted president Pedro Castillo made his first appearance in court on Thursday since being removed from office, arrested and charged with “rebellion” for attempting to shut down the Andean nation’s congress.
Castillo, the leftist onetime schoolteacher, was taciturn, and let his lawyers do most of the talking at the hearing to discuss his arrest after the dramatic developments of the previous day. One of them, Anibal Torres, served as his prime minister until late November. His other lawyer, Víctor Pérez, said that Castillo’s speech on Wednesday announcing the shutdown of congress “did not constitute the crime of rebellion”.
When the presiding judge gave Castillo the floor at the end of the hearing, he was uncharacteristically quiet. “That is all,” he said, exhibiting the same wan expression and wearing the blue jacket that he was photographed in on Wednesday when first detained.
“Rebellion is a serious crime,” prosecutor Marco Huamán said in the hearing. “It doesn’t matter whether it is successful to be a crime.”
The hearing comes after Castillo’s failed gambit to avoid being removed from office by congress after months of conflict. Hours before lawmakers were due to vote on his impeachment on Wednesday, Castillo announced the shutdown of congress, the formation of an “emergency government”, and a nightly curfew.
The outcry was swift, with much of his cabinet resigning. Moments later, 101 out of 130 lawmakers voted for Castillo’s impeachment, as he fled the palace.
He was then taken into custody at Lima’s town hall. Small groups of detractors and supporters demonstrated outside the building.
Castillo’s vice-president, Dina Boluarte, was sworn in later on Wednesday, becoming Peru’s first female president. She described her predecessor’s actions as “an attempted coup d’état” in the ceremony and pledged to assemble a government “of all creeds”.
Read more about Peru’s political crisis here.