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Panama ex-President Ricardo Martinelli receives political asylum from Nicaragua

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PANAMA CITY — Panama’s former President Ricardo Martinelli has acquired political asylum from Nicaragua days after Panama’s Supreme Court docket denied his enchantment over a cash laundering conviction that carried a 10-year sentence.

Martinelli’s lawyer Shirley Castañeda mentioned outdoors the Nicaraguan embassy Wednesday that “his political asylum had already been granted.” Requested why Martinelli had requested asylum, she mentioned “as a result of his life was at risk.”

Nicaragua’s Overseas Affairs Ministry confirmed that it granted Martinelli asylum in a press release Wednesday. It mentioned Martinelli requested asylum on the premise of political persecution and imminent threat to his life. It known as on Panama’s authorities to permit his immediate exit to Nicaragua, to which Panama’s Overseas Affairs Ministry acknowledged that it had acquired the advisory from Nicaragua.

Martinelli, a 71-year-old businessman and grocery store magnate who ruled Panama from 2009 to 2014, wrote in a letter launched and confirmed as genuine by his workforce that politically motivated prosecutions had pressured him to hunt Nicaraguan asylum.

Asylum was essential to “shield myself from the continued lack of authorized safety, the denial of justice and my private security,” Martinelli wrote.

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He additionally urged his followers to help his working mate, José Raúl Mulino, within the Might 5 presidential election and mentioned that he can be with Mulino from day one.

In a press convention Wednesday afternoon, Mulino, alongside Martinelli’s spouse, mentioned that Martinelli would stay on the poll and that after they win workplace, Martinelli would return to Panama.

On Friday, the Supreme Court docket denied Martinelli’s remaining enchantment of his cash laundering conviction. Along with his conviction and sentence confirmed, Martinelli would have been ineligible to run for president.

On Saturday, Martinelli had held a rally in Panama’s capital the place he defiantly mentioned he would nonetheless run within the nation’s Might 5 election, and denied being responsible of any crimes. Nevertheless, on Monday, when Martinelli spoke in Congress, he alleged that present President Laurentino Cortizo needed to imprison and even kill him, and that he was going through imminent arrest.

Luis Eduardo Camacho, Martinelli’s spokesman, mentioned that Martinelli would stay contained in the Nicaraguan Embassy in Panama till he acquired protected passage to Nicaragua.

Martinelli was elected by his celebration final June as its presidential candidate. He was one in every of eight hopefuls vying for the presidency.

Article 180 of the nation’s structure says that nobody sentenced to 5 or extra years for a criminal offense will be elected president or vp.

Martinelli was convicted final July of cash laundering in a case relationship again to 2017 and associated to his 2010 buy of a publishing firm that owns nationwide newspapers.

Prosecutors mentioned firms that had gained profitable authorities contracts throughout Martinelli’s presidency funneled cash to a entrance firm that was then used to buy the writer. The transactions concerned a fancy sequence of international cash transfers that got here as much as $43 million. The entrance firm amassing the cash was known as “New Enterprise.”

Martinelli was sentenced to greater than 10 years in jail and fined $19 million. He had denied wrongdoing and maintained that he was the sufferer of political persecution. An appeals courtroom ratified the sentence in October.

Martinelli, a populist who oversaw a interval of large infrastructure initiatives within the nation, together with development of the capital’s first metro line, is the primary former president convicted of a criminal offense in Panama.

Final 12 months, the US authorities barred Martinelli and his speedy household from getting into the nation, primarily based on what it known as his involvement in “important” corruption.

Martinelli wouldn’t be the primary ex-president fleeing the regulation to land in Nicaragua. President Daniel Ortega’s administration granted citizenship to former President Mauricio Funes in 2019. He had loved political asylum within the nation since 2016 and faces allegations of illicit enrichment and embezzlement in El Salvador.


Observe AP’s protection of Latin America and the Caribbean at https://apnews.com/hub/latin-america

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