Trial ordered for Panama ex-president over alleged spying

November 26, 2018
Panama's former President Ricardo Martinelli yells out to journalists that President Juan Carlos Varela is interfering in his case and wants him jailed for life, as he is escorted by police during a recess from his court hearing in Panama City, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. Martinelli, who was president from 2009 to 2014, is accused of embezzlement and illegally monitoring phone calls and other communications. He has denied the charges. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

PANAMA CITY (AP) — A judge in Panama has ordered former President Ricardo Martinelli to stand trial on charges of political espionage.

Monday’s ruling means Martinelli will be prosecuted for allegedly ordering that the communications of at least 150 people be intercepted and spending millions of dollars on spy equipment. He is also charged with embezzlement because the purchases were allegedly for “personal benefit.”

Martinelli, who was president from 2009 to 2014, was extradited from the United States in June. The 66-year-old ex-leader has said he is innocent of the accusations.

The trial is set to begin Dec. 11. Martinelli faces up to 21 years in prison if convicted.

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