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Fotografía de archivo del expresidente de Panamá Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014). EFE/Alejandro Bolívar
 former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, during a press conference in Panama City, Panama on Jan. 29, 2009. EFE/Alejandro Bolivar

Former Panamanian president jailed in Miami until June 20 hearing

Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli faces numerous charges in Panama in a case involving alleged spying on more than 200 opposition figures.

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Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli appeared Tuesday in Miami before Federal Judge Edwin G. Torres, who refused him bail, so he will remain in detention until the next hearing set for June 20.

Martinelli, handcuffed and wearing a brown prisoner's uniform, had been arrested Monday at the request of Panama's Supreme Court for his extradition on charges of illegal spying and embezzlement.

The former president spent the night in the Miami-Dade county jail, from where he was taken to court for the hearing, and where a crowd of reporters waited at the entrance to take pictures of the defendant.

Martinelli, who was in office from 2009 to 2014, was detained Monday near his home in Coral Gables, an upscale Miami suburb, making him the first former Panamanian head of state to be arrested abroad on an extradition request.

The 65-year-old former president faces numerous charges in Panama in a case involving alleged spying on more than 200 opposition figures.

Martinelli was the subject of an Interpol red notice, an alert from the international police organization that can serve as a basis for arrest in some countries, issued on April 21 at the request of Panama's Supreme Court.

Martinelli left Panama on Jan. 28, 2015, when the high court agreed to hear the first of the dozen or more cases against him, saying that he was a victim of political persecution.

The high court ordered Martinelli's temporary arrest in December 2015 in connection with the spying case.

In September 2016, the Panamanian Foreign Ministry asked the US to arrest and extradite Martinelli.

The former president said in numerous Twitter posts that he would not return to Panama until there were guarantees that his rights would be protected and that the administration of his successor, Juan Carlos Varela, would not interfere with the justice system.

Dozens of former Martinelli administration officials have been charged with corruption in cases involving millions of dollars, the Panamanian Attorney General's Office said.

The Panamanian Supreme Court is scheduled to hold a hearing in the Martinelli case on Wednesday.

Two of Martinelli's sons are the subjects of Interpol red notices in connection with the bribery scandal involving Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, a case in which 36 people face prosecution.

Odebrecht executives told authorities that the multinational construction company paid at least $59 million in bribes during the Martinelli administration.

 

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