Panamanian prosecutor requests jail for former president Martinelli for espionage

Martinelli faces charges of espionage and persecution. AFP photo

The Panamanian prosecutor's office will ask for eight years in prison against the former president of Panama Ricardo Martinelli for allegedly spying on opponents, within the new trial that the former president faces since Wednesday in a case for which he had previously been acquitted.

Martinelli arrived at the hearing, at the headquarters of the Accusatory Penal System in Panama City, as a copilot of a luxurious car, from which he got out with a walker.

At a slow pace, he went to the courthouse, amid a tangle of journalists and policemen who were waiting for him at the entrance and amid cheers from some followers.

The 69-year-old former president faces charges for the alleged commission of two crimes: telecommunications interception, and monitoring, persecution and surveillance without judicial authorization.

"The evidence is irrefutable" against Martinelli, said the prosecutor Diana Callender during the presentation of the case.

"The maximum penalty is four years for each crime, so he could face a maximum penalty of 8 years and that is what we have in mind" to ask the court, the superior prosecutor, Ricaurte González, told AFP.

According to the accusations, Martinelli would have ordered the intelligence apparatus of the Panamanian State to spy, between 2012 and 2014, on some 150 opponents of his government.

The former president was already tried in this case in 2019 and the prosecution then requested 21 years in prison against him for the alleged commission of four crimes of espionage and embezzlement.

The court that tried him then found him "not guilty", but a year later an appeals court overturned the sentence and ordered a repeat trial without the charges of embezzlement.

"This is a political trial that has already been tried, I have not been charged, it is already prescribed and yet they politically want to make a mockery of this," Martinelli said upon arrival at court.

"What I want here is for Panama to reconcile and move forward (...), not to waste time in this nonsense," added the former president.

Martinelli, a billionaire supermarket magnate, won the presidency in 2009 with a strong speech against the political class and corruption.

But after the end of his term, the Panamanian justice investigated him for multiple scandals during his administration, of which a dozen ministers were detained.




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