PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – The United States on Monday extradited former Panama president Ricardo Martinelli to the Central American country, where he stands accused of illegal wiretapping, the U.S. State Department said.
Martinelli was arrested in June 2017 in Miami after Panama requested his extradition on charges that he had used public money to spy on more than 150 political rivals during his 2009-2014 term.
Martinelli has maintained his innocence and said he is a victim of political persecution by current president Juan Carlos Varela, a former political ally.
Panamanian authorities said Martinelli was extradited at 8:44 am local time. They did not give details of his arrival, but dozens of Martinelli’s supporters gathered at the Tocumen international airport, waving flags of the political party the former president founded, according to local television footage.
Panamanian authorities said Martinelli will be held at the Renacer prison outside Panama City.
One of Martinelli’s attorneys, Roniel Ortiz, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Elida Martinez; Writing by Julia Love; Editing by Sandra Maler)