The stages of extradition


Ricardo Martinelli. Ricardo Martinelli. Expandir Imagen
Ricardo Martinelli. LA PRENSA/Archivo

ANALYSIS. To understand the extradition process that is currently taking place in the Federal Court of Miami, Florida, it is necessary to know the stages of this process: 

1. The request for Panamanian extradition was in the hands of the U.S. Department of State, which is the equivalent of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The evaluation carried out in this entity analyzed the formality of the documents that Panama sent, verifying whether they met the requirements of US law, and if there were no national security reasons in the United States, or foreign policy reasons, to avoid the extradition of Ricardo Martinelli. The State Department then sent the request to the Justice Department to continue the process. 

2. The Department of Justice is the equivalent of our Public Ministry. There, the Office of International Affairs reassessed the file and verified that the requested person was not part of a criminal investigation in the United States, either an active investigation with a sealed indictment or even as a protected witness who was collaborating in some criminal case. If not part of any criminal process, the file is assigned to a Federal Prosecutor's Office of South Florida. 

3. With the arrest of Martinelli began the opportunities for the defense. The government of Panama also has the obligation to hire lawyers to represent the interests of the country and provide legal and political analysis to the judge, if necessary. 

The hearing yesterday, Tuesday, was simply to consider whether or not bail would be granted to allow Martinelli to be released as the extradition process progresses. This hearing, and that of next Tuesday, do not in any way deal with the substantive part of the extradition process. Once the issue of bail has been decided, the date for the background hearing will be set, and there the lawyers for Martinelli will have the opportunity to present their arguments. 

Of losing in that instance, it is certain that the ex-president's legal defense team will appeal and his case will be heard by a panel of federal judges of the Fifth Judicial Circuit, based in Atlanta. Once this appeal is decided, the case could be referred to the US Supreme Court, but this court usually refuses to hear such cases.

4. The argument that the defense apparently wants to use is that of political persecution. This argument already failed Martinelli in a political asylum hearing a few weeks ago. Anyway, it is worth exploring the concept. Martinelli's lawyers must generate reasonable doubts and questions about the nature of the offenses for which their client is being investigated. Surely, experts and reports will be presented by various experts who may qualify the government of Juan Carlos Varela as another Latin American authoritarian regime that pursues its political enemies. 

Although the primary responsibility for constructing and articulating the counter-argument lies with the US Attorney's Office, the government of Panama can collaborate by identifying alleged victims of previous government abuses and by finding international experts to validate the nature of the regime presided over by Ricardo Martinelli. All this would happen if Judge Edwin Torres allows this type of argument. 

Many half-truths have spread on the subject of extradition. Although the Extradition Treaty of 1904 is the main legal source, there is a multiplicity of inter-American and United Nations multilateral treaties that have expanded the range of extradition offenses. The main concept is that the conduct investigated is a crime in both countries. Illegal telephone intervention is a criminal offense in Panama and the United States.

During the months that the extradition will take, the Supreme Court of Panama must expedite the other processes that follow to Martinelli so that Panama presents additional requests for extradition that favor the case. It is crucial to understand that when extradition is granted for a crime, or for a list of crimes, the person can only be tried for those cases. Hypothetically, if Martinelli's extradition was granted, he could only be tried for the illegal surveillance case.


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