Panamanian vice president and chancellor Isabel De Saint Malo today accused jailed former president Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) of promoting an "extortion campaign to intimidate" country's journalists and authorities.
The statement of the vice president was released after defenders of Martinelli filed a criminal complaint for libel and slander against two very critical civil leaders of the former head of state, who has been detained since June 11 in the framework of the trial for alleged illegal wiretapping during his Government.
"I join citizen support for @aplanells @marielaeledezma against absurd lawsuit filed against them. We cannot allow the abuse of the system by those who must be held accountable. It is an extortion campaign to intimidate journalists and authorities," wrote this Sunday De Saint Malo on Twitter.
The lawsuit against Anette Planells and Mariela Ledezma was filed last Friday before the Public Prosecutor by two lawyers of Martinelli, including Alma Cortés, requesting a 2-million-dollar compensation from each of those implicated for insults and slander.
Planells, director of the Independent Movement (Movin), expressed in a letter on her and Ledezma's behalf that "they will respectfully await the authorities' response" and that "as usual, we will continue to issue our opinions responsibly."
"We cannot allow anyone to thwart our freedom of expression (...) once again they are trying to use the judicial system to prevent criticism and thwart the freedom of expression of people who are concerned about the national future," added Planells in her letter posted on Twitter.
The lawsuit against the civil leaders is added to another one filed earlier this month by Martinelli's lawyers against De Saint Malo, to which they ask for a 20-million-dollar compensation for allegedly having mishandled the former president's extradition from the United States.
Martinelli was surrendered last June 11 to Panama by the United States, where he was imprisoned for one year because of the extradition request for illegal wiretapping to more than a hundred politicians, journalists, businesspeople and even personnel of the US Embassy, according to the complainants.
Attorney Cortés told Efe on August 7 that they would file lawsuits against judicial authorities and plaintiffs in the case of illegal wiretapping, with arguments such as alleged "abuse of authority" and for making "public accusations disqualifying" Martinelli.
Former first lady Marta Linares de Martinelli also filed a complaint requesting that "the media be ordered ... especially the newspaper La Prensa, to cease and refrain from disclosing or publishing facts and situations of a private and family nature, and the first and last name or surnames in general of the family group, as part of a media campaign against the members of this Panamanian family".
"The complaint is to request family protection and the family image protection, for publishing journalistic news linking Martinelli's children with the Odebrecht case, which is investigated by the Special Anticorruption Prosecutor," according to the newspaper La Prensa.
The brothers Luis Enrique and Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares, according to the government of Panama, allegedly received millionaire bribes from Odebrecht, and were accused of money laundering in January 2017 by the Prosecutor's Office and have orders for international search and seizure.
According to his lawyers and his mother, Marta Martinelli, these accusations are nothing more than a political persecution of Ricardo Martinelli, with the intention to involve his children as revenge and they are innocent of these accusations.