RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The new trial against former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli for the case of political espionage during his term (2009-2014) started on Wednesday with a month delay of the scheduled date due to two suspensions and after the annulment of the first one, in which he was declared “not guilty”.
Martinelli, who arrived at court with his defense calling this new trial a “political hoax”, faces eight years in prison for two crimes: interception of telecommunications; and tracking, persecution, and surveillance without judicial authorization.
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The 69-year-old former president is accused of having intercepted the telecommunications of nearly 150 people, including business people, rival politicians, and even his allies and journalists.
“It is a political trial in which we are wasting time and money (…) we are here in this political hoax,” Martinelli said as he left the courthouse, where he appeared after being absent on the two previous dates.
START WITH THE APPLAUSE OF THE PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE
The three judges in charge of the process started the trial on Wednesday morning, which was applauded by the prosecution since it should have begun last June. Still, medical incapacities presented by Martinelli’s defense due to a non-urgent spine surgery postponed it twice.
Martinelli’s defense presented again on Wednesday medical allegations due to the ingestion of medication that supposedly prevented the former president from remaining “conscious” during the trial, but they were denied by the Court.
“We are extremely pleased because at least the trial started. We had high expectations that there would be some incidents, but the judges have been categorical. There are three women at the front, empowered and clear about what we have to do,” said prosecutor Ricaurte González.
During the trial, the prosecution read the theory of the case – a “preview”, according to Gonzalez, of what will be seen in the coming days – and called for “guilty verdicts” for the former president after demanding justice for the victims during the pre-trial.
For its part, the defense reiterated the “not guilty” of the former president.
The new trial is expected to last for weeks, although with a shorter duration than the first one, since during the trial, it was learned that only three of the six plaintiffs remain since the other three withdrew their accusations after reaching an agreement with the defendant.
For this case, known as “pinchazos”, the former president was declared in August 2019 “not guilty” in a first trial, in which he faced 4 charges totaling 21 years in prison and which was annulled by a Court of Appeals.
Since its inception, this case has been long and complicated: it began in June 2015 in the Supreme Court of Justice sphere because Martinelli was then a Central American deputy, and they enjoyed that prerogative.
After being extradited on June 11, 2018, by the United States, where he was imprisoned for a year battling against his delivery to Panama, Martinelli resigned from the regional deputation, so the case went to the ordinary Justice.
Martinelli faces this process while promoting his new Realizando Metas (RM) party, with which he intends to run for the presidential elections scheduled for 2024. He points out that it is political persecution since he is seen as a “rival”.
In Panama, in addition to this case, Martinelli is accused and prohibited from leaving the country for the Odebrecht case. He was charged with money laundering and the “New Business” case linked to the purchase of a media conglomerate.
In Spain, the Audiencia Nacional ordered this year to investigate Martinelli for alleged crimes of corruption in international transactions and money laundering produced, at least partially in Spain, in a case involving the construction company FCC and in which the former president will be investigated, that is to say, charged.
Two sons of the former Panamanian president, Ricardo Alberto, and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, have been detained for more than a year in Guatemala due to a request from the US, which is demanding their extradition for the bribes of the Odebrecht case.