Ex-President Pedro Castillo has denounced his arrest as “political revenge” as deadly protests continue to shake Peru.

Peru’s highest court has upheld a decision to hold former president Pedro Castillo in pre-trial detention for 18 months. examined for costs of rebellion.

Peru’s Supreme Court of Appeals Board announced the decision on Thursday as the country continues to face turmoil over the deposition and removal from the former president who attempted to illegally dissolve Congress earlier this month.

Castillo denied committing the crimes of rebellion and conspiracy at a hearing on Wednesday, stating that his temporary custody had “served only to polarize our country”. The legal process, he added, was “nothing more than political revenge”.

Widespread protests erupted throughout Peru after Castillo was arrested in what many described as an attempted coup. On December 7, when the Peruvian Congress met to hold an impeachment vote, Castillo announced that he would rule by decree instead.

In the wake of Castillo’s announcement, parliamentarians reacted overwhelmingly advocate of impeachment. Dinah BoluarteCastillo’s former vice president, was sworn in as Peru’s first female president.

Since then she has called for new elections to de-escalate the protests, which have called for her resignation and the dissolution of Congress, as well as Castillo’s release.

On Thursday, Boluarte also announced she would support the investigation into the deaths linked to the protests and would offer “all possible means” to the prosecutor’s office. Clashes with police and army have killed an estimated 22 people. Six others have died as a result of street blockades.

“We are not going to allow impunity,” Boluarte said at a news conference. “She [the deaths] should be investigated.”

Human rights groups have accused government forces of using firearms on protesters, and a Reuters investigation found that several protesters were shot dead in the city of Ayacucho. The government has said protesters have used weapons and home-made explosives.

Peru has a 30-day nationality state of emergency since December 14, giving security forces special powers. It also limits certain constitutional rights, such as freedom of assembly and movement.

Castillo’s supporters believe in impeaching the former president was part of a conspiracy by the country’s ruling elite to punish him. Castillo, a former school teacher from the rural town of Puña, was a dark-skinned candidate who turned up unexpectedly won the presidency in July 2021.

The governments of Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Bolivia – all led by leftist leaders – have expressed their solidarity with Castillo.

Latin America has a long history of removing democratically elected left-wing politicians, often through violent or anti-democratic means, but Boluarte said other countries had “misinterpreted” what happened to Castillo.

“What did happen was a collapse of the constitutional order [Castillo] want to stage a coup,” Boluarte said, resisting the criticism.

Relations between Peru and Mexico have been strained by the ordeal, with Mexico’s leftist president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador offering Castillo and his family asylum.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru responded by explaining Mexico’s envoy to Peru “persona non grata” and expelled him last week.

On social media, the State Department “condemned repeated statements by that country’s highest authorities [Mexico] about the political situation in Peru”.

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