Ex-Presidents Released After Year of Detention

October 21, 2005

AFTER nearly a year serving preventive detention orders under house arrest and in a national penitentiary, two former Costa Rica presidents accused of corruption are now enjoying their freedom – with certain restrictions.Former heads of state Miguel Angel Rodríguez (1998-2002) and Rafael Angel Calderón, Jr. (1990- 1994) are prohibited from leaving the country and must sign in every 15 days at the judicial office handling their cases while they await further proceedings regarding the allegations against them. Neither has been formally charged.Calderón, held in preventive detention since Oct. 21, 2004, enjoyed his first day outside the confines of his eastern San José home yesterday following a successful appeal by his lawyers. Rodríguez was granted liberty six days earlier, Oct. 14, one day shy of the one-year anniversary of his arrest.Upon being notified of their release, both men said they were eager to attend church.CALDERÓN, 55, is accused of distributing a $9.2 million commission on a medical equipment purchase by the Social Security System (Caja). Since his arrest, he served a series of preventive detention orders both in his home and at La Reforma Penitentiary in the province of Alajuela –as did Rodríguez, who is accused of accepting illegal payments in connection with the telecommunication firm Alcatel’s multimillion-dollar contract in Costa Rica (TT, Oct. 22, 2004). Rodríguez, 65, resigned from his post as Secretary General of the Organization of the Ameican States (OAS) because of the allegations and was arrested upon his return to Costa Rica from the United States.The Prosecutor’s Office investigations of both ex-Presidents are ongoing. At press time, judges’ reasons for ending the detention orders had not been made public.Calderón’s lawyer, Juan Marcos Rivero, told The Tico Times the two liberations result from different circumstances and are not comparable.ACCORDING to Rodríguez’s attorney, Rafael Gairaud, who spoke outside Rodríguez’s home in the western suburb of Escazú on the night his release was announced, his client has been relaxed throughout his detention, “living his liberty on an internal level.”During an interview with The Tico Times at his home in June, Rodríguez said his goal is a fair trial, and that his lengthy detention was unjust because no charges have been filed against him. He has filed complaints before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) and sent letters to legislative leaders and others alleging that his arrest and detainment were unfair (TT, June 10).“Every day we feel more certain and more calm that, in the end, truth will have to triumph over lies and evil,” Calderón said Wednesday, adding that he is preparing a defense to demonstrate his innocence and more information will be released next week, according to wire service ACANEFE.He also told the daily Al Día he hopes to return to politics once his name has been cleared.The former presidents cannot have contact with witnesses or other people implicated in the cases. They are also prohibited from nearing borders, ports or airports of any kind.

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