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Bolivia to extradite ex-ally of Peru's president in corruption case

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LA PAZ, May 11 (Reuters) - A Bolivian court on Monday authorized the extradition to neighboring Peru of a former adviser to Peruvian President Ollanta Humala in a corruption scandal that could dent the leader's popularity.

Martin Belaunde, Humala's campaign adviser during his failed 2006 presidential bid, fled to Bolivia last year to escape charges of graft and unlawful association.

Peruvian prosecutors say Belaunde, under house arrest in La Paz, belongs to a vast criminal network with links to public officials.

Belaunde has denied the accusations and said he is a victim of political persecution.

His return to Peru will likely draw more attention to the closely followed scandal ahead of elections next year.

In Peru, presidents cannot hold two consecutive terms and Humala's party has not yet announced a 2016 candidate.

Humala has repeatedly denied any knowledge of Belaunde's alleged criminal activities. His government requested his extradition in March.

The belief that there is corruption in Humala's government has been the top reason for disapproving of him in Ipsos polls since November, after the Belaunde scandal became well known.

(Reporting by Daniel Ramos; Writing by Mitra Taj; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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