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Ex-Leader of Ecuador Held on His Return

October 15, 2005|From Associated Press

MANTA, Ecuador — Former President Lucio Gutierrez, ousted from office in April, returned to Ecuador on Friday in a bid to regain power but was arrested moments after his plane landed.

About 15 heavily armed police officers boarded the chartered aircraft Friday evening after it arrived in the western city of Manta from Bogota, Colombia, where Gutierrez had received asylum. He remained calm as he was led to another plane that took him to the capital, Quito.

He had insisted before leaving Colombia that he was unjustly ousted and accused his successor, President Alfredo Palacio, of corruption and fabricating charges against him.

"I am innocent, and I am not a criminal," Gutierrez said.

Hours before Gutierrez's arrival, police used tear gas to disperse about 500 backers who tried to force their way into the airport.

The court that issued the arrest order said the former president presented a threat to national security after he accused Palacio of assuming power illegally and insisted he was Ecuador's rightful leader.

Congress voted Gutierrez out five days after he disbanded the country's Supreme Court and declared a state of emergency, sparking huge street protests in the capital.

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