Telesforo Guerra, the lawyer for software company founder John McAfee,… (Moises Castillo / Associated…)
A Guatemalan judge has ordered software mogul John McAfee released from a detention center there, McAfee's lawyer said Tuesday.
Judge Judith Secaida ruled that McAfee’s detention was illegal, attorney Telesforo Guerra said, adding that the judge also said McAfee should be given 10 days to straighten out his immigration status. The ruling, which Guerra said the judge informed him of verbally, could not be immediately confirmed.
Guerra said he expects his client to be released by Thursday or Friday, and believes he will seek to return to the United States immediately. McAfee had expressed a desire to return to the U.S. in a live video stream over the weekend, saying he wished to spend his “declining years” in peace.
“It’s a victory because the government wanted to send him back to Belize,” said Guerra in a phone interview. “With this kind of resolution, they cannot do it.”
Guerra said that according to Guatemalan law, someone entering illegally has the right to 10 days to establish immigration status. “There is no crime in coming without any visa. If there’s not any crime, the immigration office has to release him.”
He was arrested last week after officials said he’d entered the country illegally, in an attempt to dodge Belize police who named him a “person of interest” in the fatal shooting of his neighbor, American businessman Gregory Faull. McAfee has become something of a self-styled fugitive (no warrant has been issued against him in Belize) ever since Faull was found face-up in a pool of blood in November.
Belize police maintain they merely want to question McAfee, who lived near Faull on an exotic island off the coast of Belize. But McAfee, who founded the antivirus company that still bears his name, has said he believes he will be killed if captured by Belize officials.
McAfee, never far from an Internet connection, has blogged his progress along the way, describing his elaborate disguises and complaints about the corruption of Belize officials even from the immigration detention center where he’s being held.
“He has all the things that he needs,” said Guerra. “He has his computer, a nice bed and a desk.”
McAfee told Sky News on Tuesday that he was “100 percent certain” he would be released within 24 hours.
If McAfee’s predictions hold true, his move to the U.S. could end a weeks-long saga that included McAfee’s disappearance, resurfacing in Guatemala, detention and hospitalization for chest pains. In the latest development McAfee sold the rights to his story to a Montreal-based TV producer.
Meanwhile, Raphael Martinez, a spokesman for the Belize police department, said it is waiting to see what happens. "Personally," said Martinez in a phone interview, "I'd say if he's not returned to Belize by Thursday or Friday, the chances of him coming back here are very slim."
Martinez added that he hopes the "good working relationship" Belize has with the United States might assist the police department in its ongoing murder investigation, even if McAfee flies back to the U.S.
"If he goes back to America ... it would be totally on the onus of the American people whether they want to bring a closure to what has been happening in Belize," Martinez said.