A Bolivian court has found former president Jeanine Áñez guilty of orchestrating a coup that brought her to power during a 2019 political crisis.
She was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Áñez, 54, was convicted on Friday of making “decisions contrary to the constitution” and of “dereliction of duty”.
The prosecution said Áñez, then a rightwing senator, violated norms that guarantee the constitutional and democratic order after Bolivia’s 2019 presidential elections.
Bolivia has been split over whether a coup occurred when then-president Evo Morales resigned in 2019, with Áñez ascending to the presidency amid a leadership vacuum. Morales’ departure followed mass protests over a disputed election in which he claimed to win a controversial fourth consecutive term in office.
Áñez maintains she is innocent. The contentious case has further exposed the fault lines in a deeply divided country while also fueling concerns about its judicial process.
“We are concerned about how this case has been pursued and we call on superior courts to examine how the proceedings were conducted,” said Cesar Munoz, a senior researcher for the Americas at Human Rights Watch.
Áñez was not allowed to attend the trial in person, instead following the hearing and participating from prison. She has been detained since her arrest in March 2021 on initial charges of terrorism, sedition and conspiracy.
Members and supporters of Morales’ Movement to Socialism (MAS) party, which returned to power in 2020, say Áñez played a key role in what it says was a coup against Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, who oversaw a dramatic reduction in poverty as president from 2005 to 2019.
As president, Áñez drew criticisms of political score-setting when her administration prosecuted to form MAS officials.
Áñez’s supporters say her trial was illegitimate and political. In the trial, Áñez said she was the product of circumstance and that her ascension to the top office helped calm a tense nation and lay the groundwork for elections in October 2020.
“I didn’t lift a finger to become president, but I did what I had to do,” Áñez said in her final statement to the judge. “I assumed the presidency out of obligation, according to what is established in the constitution.”