Saturday 4 February 2023

Honduras: judge says ex-president Juan Orlando Hernández can be extradited to U.S.

Former Honduran president is accused of participating in the export of 500 tons of cocaine to the United States. Now, his lawyers have three days to appeal before the full Supreme Court of Justice of Honduras

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Q24N – Former President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, may be off to the United States to face drug trafficking and weapons charges after Honduran judge, Edwin Francisco Ortez, ruled Wednesday that Hernández can be extradited, deciding to grant the U.S. extradition request.

US Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have accused Hernández in recent years of funding his political rise with profits from drug traffickers in exchange for protecting their shipments.

Supporters of former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández protest in front of the Supreme Court of Justice building with a sign depicting him and his wife Ana García while awaiting a hearing, in Tegucigalpa. (ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP)

Hernández has denied any wrongdoing.

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Hernández, since his arrest at his home on February 15 at the request of the U.S. government, is being detained in the Los Cobras barracks of the special police forces. For his court date Wednesday, for “security reasons”, the former president was taken by helicopter to the Court’s headquarters.

Before the decision was announced, court spokesman Melvin Duarte said that during a hearing earlier in the day, Hernández addressed the court. “In general terms he argued about the motives that have led to this extradition process against him, which he and his wife have said publicly,” Duarte said.

During the hearing, the judge presented a document sent by the U.S. Justice Department through the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa that laid out the charges against Hernández.

The former president was arrested less than three weeks after he left office and followed years of allegations by U.S. prosecutors of his alleged links to drug traffickers. His brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, was sentenced to life in prison on drug and weapons charges in March 2021.

After his arrest the former president was led before cameras flanked by police, shackled at the wrists and ankles, and wearing a bulletproof jacket. On Wednesday, he appeared in court wearing a blue suit but was similarly shackled.

Shackled at the wrists and ankles, and wearing a bulletproof jacketHernandéz was transferred to and from court under heavy security

Former ally

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Hernández “has engaged in significant corruption by committing or facilitating acts of corruption and drug trafficking, and by using the proceeds of illicit activities for political campaigns,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

US prosecutors have referred to the former president as a “co-conspirator” who turned Honduras into a “narco-state” by involving the military, police and other civilians in drug trafficking to the United States.

Hernández, a former ally of Washington, criticizes the justice system in the United States by stating that he being targeted based on “declarations of drug traffickers and confessed murderers” who were extradited by his government.

In her inauguration speech, President Xiomara Castro promised to fight corruption and drug cartels, for which she received the support of the United States through Vice President Kamala Harris, who attended her inauguration.

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Q24N is an aggregator of news for Latin America. Reports from Mexico to the tip of Chile and Caribbean are sourced for our readers to find all their Latin America news in one place.

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