International review Investigation

Judge: Panama ex-president should be extradited from US

Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli listens during the session "The role of Business in Development" on the first day of the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 26, 2011. The global shift in economic and political power towards emerging giants like China and India, as well as the eurozone's debt battle, will remain key themes at this week's Davos meeting, said an analyst. Source: AFP PHOTO/ERIC PIERMONT/

This material belongs to: AP.

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.