Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) will stand trial for illegal wiretapping for which he was surrendered to Panama by the US on Monday, after being under custody for one year in that country because of an extradition request.
Martinelli, 66, broke into tears on Monday night when Presiding Magistrate the case of wiretapping Gerónimo Mejía informed him that he will continue to be jailed in El Renacer prison, where he was taken after landing in Panamanian territory and the same prison where former dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega served sentence (1934-2017).
Mejía recalled the decision of the plenary session of the Supreme Court on December 21, 2015, when Martinelli's "provisional detention was ordered as a precautionary measure" in response to the "flight risk", and that it was not for the sole purpose of extradition, as it has been interpreted by the defense, the magistrate said.
The trial against Martinelli for illegal wiretapping during his term (2009-2014) involves four crimes that can be punishable up to 21 years in prison.
"I'm simply not in good medical condition" to remain in jail, Marinelli told the judge detailing his heart disease and even probable prostate cancer.
Before the argument of the defense that the former president suffers from a chronic heart condition, Mejía said that this Monday he would order authorized doctors to assist Martinelli in jail, and that if they certify that "he is in an emergency situation, his transfer to a health center will be authorized”.
He clarified that this transfer to a hospital would not mean a substitution of the precautionary measure of preventive detention, a decision that can only be taken by the full court, Martinelli’s defense attorney Sydney Sittón told Efe.
"I feel very offended because all my rights have been violated," Martinelli said in court. He had already loudly claimed that in jail, where he arrived without his lawyers and without prior notification to his relatives.
The detention in a federal jail in Miami (USA) was conducted "to comply with the treaty (bilateral extradition), not to consider it as a precautionary measure," said Mejía.
The US Department of State approved the extradition of Martinelli under the specialty provision enshrined in a bilateral treaty of 1905, which means that the former president will only be tried in his country for the case of wiretapping, one of about 10 criminal cases that has been opened by the Supreme Court.
Earlier during the expression of support for Martinelli
Hundreds of people stayed outside the Supreme Court of Justice in Panama City to express their support for Martinelli. The arrival to Panama of the former president caused a demonstration of supporters. "It means a renewal for the country, a real change," said Elizabeth Arrieta.
"Today is him, tomorrow it can be my mother, my father because there is no justice in this country. This is just what Varelism wants and the people who accompany him," said Marilin Montenegro, referring to the rule of law in Panama.
Beatriz de Domínguez is confident that Martinelli will be released from prison, "I believe in the innocence of former President Martinelli, that's why I'm here."