Former Bolivian interim president Jeanine Anez has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges linked to her assumption of office in 2019 amid violent protests that led to the resignation and exile of her predecessor Evo Morales.
Anez was convicted by the court of dereliction of duty and acting against the constitution when she proclaimed herself president in what Mr Morales and his party have called a coup.
Anez’s supporters deny it was a coup, saying Mr Morales’s alleged abuse of power triggered a legitimate uprising in the streets.
The ousting of Bolivia’s first Indigenous president and his vice-president created a power vacuum that allowed Anez to assume the interim presidency as second president of the Senate, they claim. The defence said she will appeal against the decision.
“I did not lift a finger to become president, but I did what I had to do to pacify a country that Morales left convulsed as he fled,” Anez said from the prison where she is being held.
Mr Morales stepped down following nationwide protests over suspected vote-rigging in an election which he claimed to have won to gain a fourth term in office. Mr Morales has denied there was fraud.
The protests left 37 people dead and forced Mr Morales to take refuge in Mexico.
His party, known by its initials in Spanish MAS, returned to power in 2020 elections and Mr Morales has since returned to Bolivia.
The trial sets a “historic precedent” against impunity, said MAS deputy Juan Jose Jauregui.
The court also sentenced former armed forces commander Williams Kaliman and ex-police commander Vladimir Calderon to 10 years in prison. Four other former military chiefs received lesser sentences.