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.
Hernández has denied any wrongdoing.
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.
Juez de Primera Instancia otorga la solicitud de Extradición que involucra a el Ex Presidente Hernández Alvarado. pic.twitter.com/SSdXBHs9ob
— Poder Judicial HN (@PJdeHonduras) March 17, 2022
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.
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.