Panama's former President Ricardo Martinelli, currently imprisoned in the US, has announced he intends to drop his extradition fight. Martinelli stands accused of embezzling funds to spy on political opponents.
Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli on Thursday announced he will drop his bid to fight extradition from the US to his native Panama.
Martinelli's lawyer filed a motion in a Miami federal court, indicating the ex-leader would no longer appeal an August 2017 ruling that he could extradited.
The 66-year-old stands accused back in Panama of embezzling over $13.4 million in public funds to form a spy network and target some 150 of his political opponents while he served as president from 2009 to 2014. Martinelli denies the charges, claiming he is the target of a politically motivated prosecution by sitting president, Juan Carlos Varela, who served as Martinelli's vice president.
Martinelli went into exile in Miami in 2015 after a Panama court ordered his arrest. He was arrested on June 12, 2017 in Coral Gables, Florida, at the request of the Panamanian government and has remained in federal prison ever since.
The case will now be passed onto the State Department, which is set to decide whether to abide to the extradition order and under what conditions.
Martinelli's lawyer Sidney Sitton said the former president hoped to remain in the hands of the State Department and be sent to Panama under a clause that guarantees he would only be prosecuted the crimes listed on the extradition order, and no others.
Sitton added that the extradition was expected to be finalized within 30 days.
"I am accepting what the extradition treaty of 1905 says with its specialty clause," Martinelli said in a hand-written note dated Thursday. "It is up to the State Department to make the final decision."
dm/bw (AP, AFP, Reuters)