August 30, 2015 / 12:48 AM / in 2 years

Bid to lift Guatemala president's immunity advances in Congress

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - A Guatemalan congressional committee on Saturday recommended that President Otto Perez be stripped of immunity from prosecution over his suspected involvement in a customs racket, paving the way for a full vote in Congress in the coming days.

Members of an investigative commission in charge of deciding if Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina is to be stripped of his diplomatic immunity, participate in a hearing, in Guatemala City, August 28, 2015. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

The five-member congressional committee told a news conference that Congress could vote on their recommendation as early as Tuesday. Presidential immunity can be lifted with a vote in favor by at least two-thirds of the 158-member Congress.

That vote will be closely watched after the Guatemalan Supreme Court on Tuesday approved a request by Guatemala’s attorney general to impeach the president.

If Congress votes to lift his immunity, the Supreme Court then turns the matter to prosecutors, who would then able to bring charges against him in court.

Perez, a 64-year-old retired general, survived an earlier attempt this month to strip his immunity, when that motion drew only 88 votes, short of the two-thirds needed.

Perez is accused of participating in a customs scam, known as La Linea, whereby importers avoided paying customs duties in exchange for bribes. He has denied the allegations and said that he will not resign.

Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Editing by Dave Graham and W Simon

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