An Ecuadorian former vice president appeared Wednesday before the National Court of Justice in a bid to have his six-year prison sentence for corruption overturned.
Before entering the courthouse, Jorge Glas greeted dozens of supporters of leftist ex-head of state Rafael Correa, who had urged people via Twitter to gather outside the building and show their support for a "political prisoner" and "innocent man."
The National Court's criminal chamber found Glas guilty last December of receiving bribes totaling $13.5 million from Odebrecht in return for helping the Brazilian engineering giant secure five construction contracts between 2012 and 2016.
But former Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño and lawmaker Sofia Espin testified at Wednesday's hearing that Glas - the ex-right hand man of Correa, Ecuador's president from 2007 to 2017 - was innocent of the charges and the victim of political and media persecution.
Glas was placed in pre-trial detention on Oct. 2 as part of the corruption probe and was constitutionally stripped of his position as vice president in early January after being absent from his post for more than three months.
After serving as Correa's vice president from May 2013 until the latter left office four years later, Glas continued to be the country's No. 2 official under current President Lenin Moreno.
Moreno also once served as Correa's vice president and was the latter's hand-picked successor.
But Moreno, who was elected in February 2017 and took office three months later, distanced himself from Correa in July of last year, saying the country had greater equality but that he had inherited a "critical" financial situation due to high levels of public debt.
Moreno then stripped Glas of his official duties last August after the latter accused the president of having provided false economic data aimed at tarnishing the legacy of Correa's Citizens' Revolution.
Correa has been living in his wife's homeland of Belgium since leaving office.
In a settlement in late 2016 with authorities in the United States, Brazil and Switzerland, Odebrecht and petrochemical unit Braskem pleaded guilty and agreed to pay at least $3.5 billion to resolve charges arising out of bid-rigging schemes that began as early as 2001 and involved the payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to officials in more than a dozen countries.