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Evidence assessment stage in trial against Martinelli is opened

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  • Thu, 08/02/2018 - 17:26
Ricardo Martinelli
  • EFE

The indictment hearing for the case of illegal wiretapping against former President Ricardo Martinelli, for which he can face a sentence of up to 21 years in prison, will be assessed today, having compleated the indictment phase.

The hearing is expected to restart on Thursday at 3:00 pm local time (20:00 GMT), as convened by judge Jerónimo Mejía on Wednesday, at the end of a session in which four of the six plaintiffs presented "civil actions" amounting to almost 56 million dollars.

The indictment presented by Magistrate Harry Díaz on October 2015, was extended from 30 to 48 pages during its support in this intermediate phase, in response to a series of "corrections" requested by the former president's defense.

After applying form correctives, the judge indicated that "in general terms the brief (of the prosecutor) complies with the parameters established" in the Panamanian law.

On the issue of compensation, the judge clarified that the defendant in this case is the former president of Panama, so it is he who must pay if convicted in an oral trial, which should be called at the end of this intermediate phase.

That clarification was given by Mejía, according to local press Thursday, after Martinelli said on Wednesday that if  they "politically condemn me, it is the Panamanian state that has to pay, because I was president", a hypothesis that one of his lawyers, Sidney Sitton, also supported adding that the issue of compensation corresponds to a civil court.

Mejía however said, according to local media, that the issue of civil actions can be debated by the full Supreme Court in the case of Martinelli’s conviction, a version one of the plaintiffs, Mitchell Doens, had already told EFE.

Doens explained to EFE on Wednesday that Panamanian legislation allows the plaintiffs at this stage to "seek compensation", which in their case is "20 million dollars", in view of the consequences of "the criminal actions committed by Ricardo Martinelli", referring to the alleged illegal interception of communications to more than a hundred people during his administration.

The former president, who claims to be innocent and a victim of political persecution, "has to respond to this requirement, if not in this criminal stage, in the civil sphere once he is convicted," said Doens, a 71-year-old former Panamanian Labor Minister. and iron-fisted opponent of Martinelli.

At the trial stage, "the jury, in this case the full magistrates of the Supreme Court (CSJ), could decide" on compensations, and if it does not, "once Mr. Martinelli is convicted, as we expect, the (compensation) suit by civil means begins, so that this (the compensation requested on Wednesday) is contemplated," said Doens, who represents himself in this case.

He stressed to EFE that the Balbina Herrera policy, which calls for 30 million dollars in compensation, is the same that has been asked of Martinelli, not the Panamanian state, because "it is time for (public) officials to pay from their own resources" the crimes they commit.

Martinelli is being held in a minimum security prison located on the outskirts of the Panamanian capital since June 11, when he was handed over by the United States authorities, where he was imprisoned for one year because of the request for extradition for the cause of ilegal wiretapping.

The former president left Panama on January 28, 2015, the same day the first of about 10 criminal cases was opened by the CSJ, although his defense ensures that he can only be prosecuted for illegal wiretapping as established by the extradition law, approved on the basis of the specialty principle provided for in a bilateral treaty.

 

Source: EFE

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