GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Guatemala’s highest court announced on Wednesday it had revoked immunity from prosecution for Judge Pablo Xitumul, a prominent anti-graft crusader, in the latest setback in the fight against corruption in the Central American nation.
Xitumul is a judge in the country’s high-risk courts, which were created after the U.N.-backed anti-corruption commission CICIG pushed reforms to investigate organized crime and corruption.
He has faced a slew of legal challenges that he regards as revenge for some of his high-level rulings, which have involved a former leader and top officials.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court decided by a majority to revoke his immunity, clearing the way for him to be investigated over a traffic-related incident from 2019.
The Supreme Court’s move comes after other prominent anti-corruption judges and officials have been removed from their posts, jailed, or pushed into exile.
Xitumul was among a handful of judges on Guatemala’s high-risk courts who submitted a formal complaint to the public prosecutor’s office last year saying they were being persecuted and harassed by unidentified armed individuals.
In 2013, he handed down an 80-year sentence for genocide to the deceased former dictator, Efraín Ríos Montt. The sentence was later overturned.
Five years later, Xitumul also sentenced former Vice President Roxana Baldetti to 15 years in prison for corruption.
Last year, he drew praise from the United States ambassador to Guatemala, William Popp, who congratulated him for “being a fundamental pillar for a democratic state.”
(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)