The former president Panamanian Ricardo Martinelli faced since Wednesday a new trial for wiretapping against opponents and journalists, the same case for which he was found not guilty two years ago.
Martinelli, from 69 years and who ruled the Central American nation between 2009-2014, came to the hearing wearing a walking brace due to a spinal operation that he underwent last month and which caused the start of the trial to be postponed again.
It is a case that has generated a long debate in Panama and incessant criticism of the former populist leader and supermarket magnate, who led a period of rapid economic growth in the country, due to the numerous appeals filed by his defense to prevent the start of the new trial.
I am very happy that today (Wednesday) is the anniversary of the Super 99, the company that generates the most jobs and pays the most taxes turns 35. I should be there working instead of attending a political trial that has already been tried, “said Martinelli upon arrival at the court.
Politically they want to make a mockery of this when all Panamanians should be working for the million and a half people who are unemployed … we should be thinking about how we reconcile the country, not how we waste time in this idiotic policy, “he added.
On the first day of the hearing, the three judges that make up the court who will judge Martinelli rejected a request made by the defense to reschedule the trial and decided that the former president can participate in the development of the hearing through technological means taking into account his health condition. The hearing will continue on Thursday.
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For his part, the superior prosecutor Ricaurte González told reporters, at the end of the first day of the hearing, that he is pleased that “at least the trial began. We had high expectations that there would be an incident that they obviously tried to present, however the judges have been blunt. ” He considered that “there were blunders in the assessment of the previous trial, of the evidence and now we have to make a trial and I am guaranteeing, I am clear and I am convinced that we are going to obtain a result of guilt.”
Martinelli was acquitted of espionage and embezzlement in August 2019 after receiving a not guilty verdict, for which his immediate release was ordered. The court rejected the prosecution’s evidence and determined that due process was violated. The trial lasted almost five months.
The prosecution presented dozens of testimonial, written and technical evidence, but the judges determined that the prosecutors’ arguments were based on imprecise and poorly structured facts. Subsequently, the Public Ministry in an appeal hearing held that there was sufficient evidence to go to a new trial.
Martinelli was repatriated from Miami —Where he was arrested in mid-2018— at the request of the Panamanian Foreign Ministry to face trial. In Panama, he was detained for a year in a jail on the outskirts of the capital until shortly before the end of the process, when he was transferred to house arrest.
The former president is being tried for the alleged commission of the crimes of telecommunications interception, monitoring, persecution and surveillance without judicial authorization.
The Martinelli attorneys reached agreements with several of Martinelli’s whistleblowers to withdraw the accusations.