Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli should be extradited to face wiretapping charges, a Miami judge ruled Wednesday.
Martinelli was arrested in Coral Gables and fought to stay in Florida after he was accused of using publicly owned equipment to monitor political opponents, journalists and business competitors during his presidency, which lasted from 2009 to 2014. His legal team, led by former U.S. Attorney Marcos Jimenez, argued the alleged offenses were not extraditable because surveillance crimes weren’t added to the treaty governing U.S.-Panama relations until 2014.
But U.S. Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres accepted the American government’s argument that any ambiguity in a treaty should be liberally interpreted in favor of extradition.
“Because President Martinelli’s construction, at best, raises an ambiguity on the applicability of the non-retroactivity provision, it is not enough to conclude that his interpretation ultimately prevails and bars his extradition,” Torres wrote in a 93-page order.
The judge also found probable cause exists for each of the surveillance and embezzlement charges against Martinelli. The former president will be held in a Miami detention facility until the secretary of state finalizes extradition.
Jimenez, a solo practitioner, was joined on the case by John Byrne, Jordi Martinez-Cid and Jeremy Kahn of Leon Cosgrove.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Fels in Miami and Washington-based Justice Department attorneys Christopher Smith and Rebecca Haciski represented the government.