Ecuador sues Mexico over asylum decision at World Court

FILE PHOTO: Ecuador's Vice President Jorge Glas talks during an interview with Reuters at the Government Palace in Quito

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) -Ecuador said on Monday it is suing Mexico at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), asking the U.N. tribunal known as the World Court to rule that Mexico's decision to grant asylum to a controversial former Ecuadorean vice president was illegal.

Mexico's government on Monday questioned why Ecuador waited weeks to file its lawsuit.

The case centers on ex-Vice President Jorge Glas, twice convicted of corruption and now facing fresh charges, who was arrested on April 5 after an armed raid by Ecuadorean police on Mexico's embassy in Quito. Glas had been living there since December as a guest and was granted asylum status shortly before the raid.

Ecuador presented the lawsuit citing "a series of violations by Mexico" since Glas took up residence at Mexico's embassy, its foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.

Ecuadorean officials argue that Mexico broke international law by interfering in internal affairs and improperly granting Glas political asylum due to the pending criminal charges he faces.

"It's noteworthy that these arguments are presented nearly a month after the violent invasion of the Mexican embassy," Mexico's foreign ministry said in a statement, adding it will formally respond to them later.

Mexico filed its own lawsuit against Ecuador at the ICJ earlier this month, accusing Ecuador of violating international law by carrying out the raid on its mission.

The ICJ will hold so-called emergency measures hearings on Tuesday, while Ecuador is expected to defend itself at a Wednesday hearing.

ICJ cases typically take years before being heard on the merits, and while its rulings are legally binding, the tribunal has no means to enforce them.

Ecuador's suit also mentions "insulting" statements by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Prior to the highly unusual raid, Ecuador complained about comments from Lopez Obrador a couple of days before Glas' arrest in which he weighed in on violence in last year's Ecuadorean presidential election.

An Ecuadorean court has ruled that though the arrest of Glas was illegal, he must remain in jail due to his previous convictions. His legal team has pledged to appeal.

Glas is facing charges of misusing funds collected to aid reconstruction of coastal Manabi province after a devastating 2016 earthquake.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia in Quito; Additional reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout and Stephanie van den Berg in Amsterdam; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Will Dunham, Bill Berkrot and Sonali Paul)