Honduran Supreme Court ratifies former US president's extradition request

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — The Supreme Court of Honduras on Monday upheld the United States’ extradition request against former President J...


TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — The Supreme Court of Honduras on Monday upheld the United States’ extradition request against former President Juan Orlando Hernández, paving the way for what could become the most high-profile drug trafficking case in New York. York since the trial of the Mexican cartel leader. Joaquín Guzmán, known as El Chapo.

In a unanimous decision, the court denied a motion by Mr. Hernández’s lawyers to block the extradition request filed in February by the United States. Following the decision, Mr. Hernández’s legal team said it was exploring the possibility of seeking a court injunction, although it was unclear what legal recourse the lawyers had to avoid the trial of Mr. Hernández. their client abroad.

“What was declared today was extradition. He was not found guilty or innocent,” Tomás Zambrano, leader of Mr. Hernandez’s National Party, told the congress. told local TV channel HCH after the judgment. “As nationalists and Hondurans, we express our solidarity with the family of President Hernández.”

Sporadic fireworks erupted in different parts of the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa as some residents celebrated the ruling against a deeply unpopular former president, under whose rule the country became more authoritarian and corrupt.

US officials have accused Mr Hernández, who resigned in January after his party suffered a landslide defeat in November’s general election, of colluding with drug cartels to ship tons of cocaine to the United States in exchange for financial support for his political party, according to the extradition request.

U.S. officials said Honduras had become one of Latin America’s biggest drug transit centers under Mr. Hernández, and that the former president had allowed cartels to penetrate the highest levels of government. his country.

Collusion with the cartels has deepened Honduras’s already chronic corruption and undermined its democracy, contributing to mass emigration from the country and leading to Defeat of Mr. Hernández’s party at the polls Last year.

His successor, Xiomara Castro, has promised to overhaul what she called a “narco state” built by Mr Hernández.

Honduran police surrounded the former president’s home on February 15, just minutes after Ms Castro’s officials said they had received the extradition request.

The former president was taken from his home in chains later that day, shocking a Central American nation accustomed to officials operating with impunity. As spontaneous celebrations erupted that evening in Tegucigalpa, Ms. Castro’s supporters chanted “Juancho is going to New York”, calling Mr. Hernández by his nickname.

While Castro acted quickly against former administration officials who were implicated in crimes, she has so far shown little desire to punish her allies, clouding perceptions of her anti-corruption promises, officials said. Honduran analysts.

In a handwritten letter posted by Mr. Hernández’s wife on social media on Monday, Mr. Hernández wrote that he was an innocent victim of revenge by the drug cartels, whose extradited members made false statements to the US prosecutors to punish him for his fight against crime organizations.

The letter also transmitted his resignation to a long prison term. “I conclude that by facing three life sentences, I could become the living dead,” he wrote.

The extradition request, presented to the Supreme Court of Honduras and seen by The New York Times, claims that Mr. Hernández participated in a “violent drug trafficking conspiracy” which, since 2004, transported 500 tons of cocaine from the Venezuela and Colombia to the United States via Honduras. The document claims that Mr. Hernández received millions of dollars in bribes for facilitating shipments and shielding traffickers from prosecution.

The brother of the former president, Juan Antonio Hernández, is serving a life sentence in the United States for trafficking cocaine. Another convicted cocaine trafficker who implicated former president, Geovanny Fuentes, was sentenced to life earlier this year.

Mr. Hernández’s impending extradition could have regional consequences if the former president decides to negotiate with federal prosecutors, said Joaquín Mejía, a Honduran human rights law expert.

“He was the kingpin of Honduras, but the drugs came from Colombia and Venezuela and were transmitted to Guatemala and Mexico,” he said, “creating a criminal structure involving high-level figures from the economic sectors and policies of all these countries”.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Honduran Supreme Court ratifies former US president's extradition request
Honduran Supreme Court ratifies former US president's extradition request
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