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MIAMI (AP) — A Miami federal judge has ruled that a former president of Panama should be extradited to face political espionage charges in his home country.
The ruling issued Thursday goes to the State Department, which will ultimately decide if ex-President Ricardo Martinelli must return to Panama. The department has argued in court papers that it supports Martinelli’s extradition.
Martinelli was Panama’s president from 2009-2014. He is accused of illegally monitoring phone calls and other communications of at least 150 people using an extensive surveillance system. Martinelli also is accused of embezzling about $13 million in public funds linked to the system.
Martinelli’s lawyers contended that an update to Panama’s extradition treaty with the U.S. did not apply to the former president and that scant evidence supports the charges.