Spanish version

JUDICIAL AFFAIRS

Victims confirm intimidation in surveillance case

Former President Ricardo Martinelli has asked for prosecutors to reveal the identities of protected witnesses.

Spanish version

Temas:

Harry Diaz, the Supreme Court justice prosecuting former President Ricardo Martinelli for allegedly ordering illegal surveillance while in office, has emphatically refused to identify protected witnesses as defense lawyers have demanded.

He said the identity of these witnesses will only be revealed once Martinelli makes an appearance in a courtroom to answer the charges,

That could happen as early as Dec. 11, when Martinelli is slated to appear before the court for a preliminary hearing in the case.

Diaz denied a request from Martinelli's lawyers this past week to identify a protected witness. When pressed on the issue by Judge Jerome Mejia, he said that this was because other witnesses have reported "they are receiving calls from people close to Mr. Martinelli with approaches that make them fear for the safety and physical integrity of the person identified as the protected witness."

Lawyer Raúl Olmos, an expert in the management of the accusatory penal system, said that Mejia may have erred in making the request in writing rather than at a hearing in open court.

"In principle, judges in the accusatory penal system should decide everything in an audience. If the defense asks for something, the judge has to have a hearing to make a decision," he said.

Samuel Quintero, another attorney experienced in the management of the accusatory penal system, said the judge was within his rights to ask the prosecutor why the identity of the witness was being hidden. But he added that the prosecutor only has "explain that there are elements and indications of the fact that the person is at risk."

He said that Díaz did the right thing by not providing the personal data of the witness.

According to former PRD Secretary General Mitchell Doens, who is one of the victims in the case, the prosecutor made the correct decision.

"I think that the judge is proceeding correctly, because revealing the identity of this person could risk his life," he said. "We are facing a mafia that is capable of anything to avoid justice."

Martinelli fled the country Jan. 28. 

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