The Panamanian Supreme Court today lifted the arrest warrant for extradition against former President Ricardo Martinelli for the alleged irregular granting of pardons, one of the several cases against him and different from the case for which he is kept in custody in the United States.
The Judicial Branch explained on Thursday in a statement that the plenary session of the highest court suspended the arrest warrant because, although the case has not expired yet, the prison sentence has expired.
"When the plenary session ruled that the case has not passed the statute of limitations, considering that for such cases prison could not be the sanction that could be imposed in this proceeding, the admissible action was lifting the arrest warrant, since it is not admissible," said Judge Wilfredo Sáenz in the same statement.
The plenary session of the Supreme Court, which acts as Court of Appeals since the highest court is the only institution that can prosecute Martinelli since he is a deputy of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), rejected on January 30 in appellate court to decree the statute of limitation and close the case of pardons.
The Panamanian Justice wants to interrogate the former president for allegedly granting irregularly a total of 355 pardons at the end of his term, for which charges were pressed and abrogated by his successor in office and former chancellor and vice president, Juan Carlos Varela.
The hearing to decide on the suspension of the arrest warrant, issued on December 12, began last Monday and was held at the request of the defense of Martinelli, who ruled Panama between 2009 and 2014.
The former president, owner of a chain of Panamanian supermarkets, has been arrested since last June in a prison in Miami (USA) for political espionage.
The former president is waiting for the State Department of that country to decide on his extradition, after two federal judges decided that his transfer to Panama is admissible.
Martinelli, who left his country in January 2015 and after several months of unknown whereabouts was established in Miami. He alleges that he is a victim of political persecution by Varela and has at least six pending cases in Panama.