MIAMI – A US federal judge on Thursday authorized former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli’s extradition to his homeland, where he is wanted on charges of embezzlement and ordering illegal wiretapping on more than 200 government opponents.
In his ruling on the extradition request for Martinelli, Judge Edwin Torres found in favor of US government attorneys, who are representing the Panamanian government in this case.
The court found that Martinelli is extraditable for the four alleged crimes for which he is facing charges as per the treaty between the US and Panama governing extradition of criminals, which – among other things – is designed to fight corruption and cybercrime.
In his 93-page ruling, the judge said that he was also ordering that Martinelli remain in a federal detention center in Miami or another penal institution pending the final disposition of the case by the US secretary of state or agents designated by the Panamanian government.
The former president’s spokesman, Luis Eduardo Camacho, said after learning of Torres’ decision that they will continue fighting and that now they will work on an appeal, which could be brought before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
Camacho added that Martinelli is prepared for a lengthy court fight, although he said that the legal team for the former president – who was arrested in June 12 in South Florida – would insist that bail be granted.
Martinelli, who governed from 2009-2014, came to Miami in 2015 after hiding out in an unknown location for several months after fleeing Panama on Jan. 28, 2015, the same day that the Central American country’s supreme court opened the first of a dozen or so cases against him.
The 66-year-old former president has requested asylum, claiming that he is being politically persecuted by his former vice president – Juan Carlos Varela – who is now president of Panama.
Two of Martinelli’s sons have had Interpol “red” notices issued for them in connection with the bribery scandal involving Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.