Ricardo Martinelli, former Panamanian president, returns to home country to face criminal charges

June 11, 2018 GMT

The United States on Monday extradited former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli back to his home country where he will face charges of spying on journalists and political opponents, the Justice Department announced.

Mr. Martinelli, who was president from 2009 to 2014, stands accused of illegally monitoring the communications of more than 150 people and embezzling over $10 million in public funds.

Panama’s highest court had issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Martinelli in December 2015. He fled to the United States after the warrant was issued. Panama had asked the United States for extradition last year, but the former president fought the request saying his return to Panama was not supported by legal grounds.

In August 2017, a federal judge ordered Mr. Martinelli to be extradited. Under a 1905 extradition treaty, he can only be tried in Panama for the crimes alleged in the transfer request.

Mr. Martinelli has maintained his innocence. His attorneys have alleged in court documents that the accusations were manufactured as part of a “vendetta” by Mr. Martinelli’s former vice president.