Five suspects in the assassination of an Ecuadorian presidential candidate will stand trial

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QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — A judge ruled Wednesday that five of six suspects in last year’s assassination of a presidential candidate will stand trial, including a leader of a powerful criminal gang who Ecuadorian authorities accuse of coordinating the slaying from his prison cell.

Judge Irene Pesántez said Carlos Angulo, the imprisoned leader of a faction of the feared Los Lobos gang, and a woman will be tried as co-conspirators in the August assassination of Fernando Villavicencio. Three other suspects will face trial as accomplices, while one person was ordered released due to a lack of evidence.

Villavicencio, an anti-corruption crusader, was gunned down as he left a campaign rally Aug. 9 in the capital, Quito. The politician had not been among the front-runners in the Aug. 20 election, but his killing in broad daylight was a shocking reminder of the surge in crime that is gripping Ecuador.

Villavicencio, 59, had reported being threatened by affiliates of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, one of the many international organized crime groups operating in Ecuador.

During hearings to determine who would stand trial, prosecutors alleged that Angulo, nicknamed “Invisible,” planned the killing and that Laura Castillo obtained vehicles, weapons and money for the execution of the crime. Authorities have said Castillo is a member of the Los Lobos's faction known as Los Invisibles, which operates in Quito.

Officials have not released much information about the other suspects.

Authorities have not named the masterminds in the killing.

Seven of the 13 people arrested after the assassination were killed last year while they were being held in prisons in the port city of Guayaquil and in Quito.