- Alexis Bethancourt, Ministro panameño de Seguridad - Photo EFE
Panama’s Minister of Security of Panama Alexis Bethancourt said today that the safeguarding mechanism around former President Ricardo Martinelli extradited on Monday by the US, has been appropriate for a high profile person required by the authorities.
"We observe all the protocols stipulated by the local and international law regarding extradited persons," Bethancourt told reporters on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Security received custody of Martinelli from the federal agents who surrendered him to Panama from a jail in Miami (USA) on Monday, where he was imprisoned for one year because of the request for extradition for a case of political espionage.
Agents of the National Police received Martinelli, who "after a general medical examination by qualified professionals (...) he was notified and read articles 22 and 25 of the National Constitution," a statement released by the Ministry of Security said on Monday.
Martinelli must stand trial for illegal wiretapping during his term that involves 4 crimes that are punishable with up to 21 years in prison, according to the indictment.
He was taken on the same Monday to El Renacer, the minimum security prison where former dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega was held (1934-2017), on account of the provisional detention as a personal precautionary measure issued in December 2015 by the Supreme Court.
This was explained on Monday by the magistrate judge of the cause of illegal wiretapping, Gerónimo Mejía, during a "rights notification hearing".
After that hearing Martinelli, 66, was taken to the public hospital Santo Tomás for a medical examination for a hypertensive crisis and this Tuesday he remained in stable condition in the intensive care unit.
For this Tuesday, Mejía summoned a hearing to listen to the diagnosis of the doctors about the health of the former president, and at around 1:00 pm local time (18:00 GMT) had not started and delayed for almost three hours.
Prosecutors in the case of illegal wiretapping against Ricardo Martinelli questioned today the version of the poor health conditions of the former president since he arrived on Monday extradited by the United States to Panama.
The former president said he felt ill last night, while he was informed by Mejía in a judicial proceeding that after his surrender to Panama he will remain in provisional detention as a personal precautionary measure due to the risk of flight, as issued in December 2015 by the plenary of the Supreme Court.
The lawyer of several alleged victims who constituted themselves as plaintiffs in the case, Ángel Álvarez, recalled on Tuesday in an interview with Efe that Martinelli flew on Monday "on a plane, and there were no contraindications" for it.
"A person who suffers from high pressure, at severe levels, would not even be allowed to board an aircraft, and he was allowed to do so," said the plaintiffs' attorney.
The former president also spent a year in a federal prison in the United States because of the Panamanian request for extradition, and "there were no contraindications that said he could not serve prison sentence".
In that sense, Mitchell Doens, one of the alleged victims of wiretapping, questioned that the defense argued to request the hospitalization of the former Panamanian president who never received medical attention during the time of his imprisonment in the United States.
"We were told that in the United States he had been treated very badly, but if you look for the records they will realize that whenever they talked about the United States they said (that Martinelli) was in very good condition, with a good start, that he had high morale" said Doens.
Also, the former Minister of Labor and former secretary general of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) criticized Martinelli's defense for trying to present him as a "political persecuted, and he is not", and for "intending to give the impression that he is not being provided all the rights, when today he is in a hospital".
"What they are looking for is trying to lift the measure of detention that the Court issued so that the man can really enjoy all the freedoms, as if nothing had happened in this country," Doens added.
Attorney Álvarez stressed that a possible change of provisional detention as a personal precautionary measure can only be authorized by the plenary of the Supreme Court in case it is requested, something that the president's defense announced it would do.
Martinelli told Judge Mejía on Monday after he told him that he was being detained, that "I'm simply not in good medical condition" to remain in jail due to his heart disease, glaucoma and even probable prostate cancer.
Martinelli is tried by the Supreme Court given his status as deputy of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen).