The National Court of Justice said Thursday that the bribery trial against former president Rafael Correa and 20 other former government employees will begin February 10 in Quito. Because of schedule conflicts and a variety of personal circumstances, the trial was delayed from its original start date last week.
The defendants are charged with soliciting payments from government contractors for Alianza Pais party bank accounts during the Correa administration. Prosecutors claim that double accounting methods were used to hide transactions that totaled more than $20 million.
The court ruled that the trial will proceed with or without the presence of the defendants and their attorneys, saying that a public defender will be assigned if necessary. “The rights of the defendants will be respected but the rights of the people of Ecuador to receive justice will also be preserved,” National Court President Judge Iván León said in announcing the trial date. “The court will tolerate no further delays.”
The original delay was granted to four defendants because of the unavailability of their attorneys due to travel plans or illness. Former assemblywoman Viviana Bonilla said she was unable to attend because she recently gave birth to a child. In the case of former minister of urban development, María de los Ángeles Duarte, her attorney said she was too poor to travel from Guayaquil to Quito.
Correa is living in Belgium and has refused to return to Ecuador to face charges. Former vice president Jorge Glas, another defendant, is serving a six-year prison sentence for a corruption conviction.
Judge León said that those who could not appear in person would be allowed to appear via video link.