Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

US extradites Panama ex-President Martinelli

US extradites Panama ex-President Martinelli

The U.S. government has agreed to extradite former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli to his home country to face political espionage and embezzlement charges.

Panama's Foreign Ministry said the United States turned Martinelli over at Panama City's worldwide airport after a plane carrying him from Miami landed. "Because of Panama's partnership with the United States, Martinelli has been returned to Panama".

Fellow members of Martinelli's Democratic Change (CD) party gathered outside the capital's Tocumen International Airport on Monday and waved party flags in a show of support for the ex-president.

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He has been accused of using public funds to monitor the phone calls of more than 150 people, including politicians and journalists.

"I'm ready to watch the World Cup!" he said, giving a thumbs-up. Panama qualified for the tournament, which begins on Thursday. He is also under investigation in about 20 other cases of corruption.

Under a 1905 extradition treaty, he can only be tried in Panama for the crimes alleged in the request.

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A justice of the highest court in Panama issued an arrest warrant for Martinelli in December 2015, and a U.S. judge ruled that he could be extradited in August 2017. Martinelli has countered that he is innocent of the accusations and has said he is a victim of political persecution by the current president, a former political ally.

He was extradited Monday after spending a year in federal prison in Miami.

General Noriega died in May previous year, aged 83, after serving time in prison in the U.S. and Panama for drug-trafficking, money laundering and racketeering.

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Martinelli is barred by term limits from running for president before 2024, but he hopes to run for a mayorship or a congressional seat, his spokesman Luis Eduardo Camacho has said.

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