Spanish version

JUDICIAL AFFAIRS

Panama petitions US for extradition of Martinelli

The former president is believed to be living in Miami.

Spanish version

Temas:

The Foreign Ministry has formalized the extradition request for former President Ricardo Martinelli and submitted it to the U.S. State Department.

The request is part of the criminal case against the former president for allegedly ordering illegal surveillance by the National Security Council.

The notification of the request was made Monday by the Panama embassy in Washington. The process took four months, as the Supreme Court approved the extradition request in May and Judge Jerome Mejia sent a formal request to the Foreign Ministry to seek the extradition of Martinelli on May 26. 

The court ordered Martinelli's arrest on Dec. 21, 2015.

Rogelio Cruz, one of Martinelli's lawyers, argued that the actions taken by the ministry are illegal, as his client's right to a defense has been violated. He said several motions that have been filed opposing the extradition have not been resolved.

VICTIMS PLEASED WITH DECISION

Victims of the illegal surveillance described the submission of the request as a breakthrough and an important step in the investigation.

"I think that it is a step that is very important so [Martinelli] faces justice and pays for the crimes and abuses that he committed while in office," said Mitchell Doens, former secretary general of the PRD, whom prosecutors say is one of the victims.

Panameñista Deputy Jose Luis Varela, another alleged victim, said: "All person must submit to justice when it is required of them. So I hope that Mr. Martinelli returns and faces these charges. It is important that people are not allowed to evade justice."

Balbina Herrera, a former PRD presidential candidate, said: "I hope that the American authorities take action on this matter because it has been expected for many months."

The request for extradition also includes a request to arrest the former president.

Professor Miguel Antonio Bernal, who is also one of the victims of the illegal surveillance and an expert in constitutional law, had doubts that the process will be successful because the government failed to take some key measures, including canceling his passport so he couldn't flee the United States. He also noted Martinelli has not been formally charged, since he fled the country before that could happen.

SILENCE FROM THE U.S.

Panama's ambassador in Washington, Emanuel González Revilla, did not respond to requests for comment about the situation.

Previously he has refused to comment about the situation because he said he did not want to have any impact on the process.

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