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In the afternoon of this Thursday, attorney John Byrne filed an appeal in the extradition case that follows his client Ricardo Martinelli decided by the judge of the Southern District of Florida, Edwin Torres, and confirmed by Marcia Cooke.

Without opposition from the Prosecutor's Office, this is the first firm appeal filed in the Eleventh Circuit of Florida, which specifies the voluntary return of the former president to the country after having spent almost a year apprehended in the Federal Prison of Miami.

Byrne now acts as the ex-attorney's main lawyer, after he terminated the services of Marcos Jiménez, who led the defence almost from the beginning of the process. In a note dated May 24, 2018, in Martinelli's hand, the former president said: 'Marcos is not my lawyer anymore'. The reason why this relationship ended is summarized by the lawyer Sidney Sitton in a very practical way, 'Marcos Jiménez had already done his job'.

In the course, his defense must present the abandonment of the emergency motion directed that his extradition will not be executed until the appeal in Atlanta is resolved; as well as the withdrawal of the opposition that filed before the response of the Prosecutor's Office that opposed the bond granted by Judge Cooke on February 14 last.

"Once Torres certifies the extradition, he communicates it to the State Department and places it in the hands of this entity, leaving behind the judicial aspect of this process," explained lawyer Francisco Carreira. Prior to this step, the judge will hold a hearing in which he will corroborate personally that Martinelli returns by his own decision and not by coercion.

Although the Treaty of Extradition between Panama and the United States, which dates from 1905, does not stipulate a specific time in which the State Department must make its decision, Sitton takes as a reference a probable period of 30 to 60 days.

Sitton recalls that in one of the hearings held in Miami, Judge Torres asked the prosecutor Adam Fells about a query he had made to the Department of State regarding the time that this process could take. Fells replied to the judge that the State Department had indicated that it could be in that period.

Once on Panamanian soil, "the Plenary of the Supreme Court must meet in permanent session and hold a hearing in the first 48 hours to legalize its apprehension and define if a precautionary measure will be applied to it," Sittón described.

The former president will serve one year in prison on June 12. The decision to return was not something of a blow, it had been meditated for some time. Among the reasons that Martinelli announced in a press release mentioned the refusal of Torres to assess solid evidence provided by the defence that show that the request for extradition is in violation of legal provisions and does not meet the requirements established in the Treaty.

Former President Martinelli believes that the new political-legal realities of Panama could give greater opportunities to the titanic, but unequal struggle that has been waged by his extraordinary team of lawyers that has represented him since 2015. Team that has achieved important legal triumphs, despite the non-existence of conditions proper to a rule of law.

The constitutionalist Miguel Antonio Bernal said that the return of the former president goes beyond his own will. "They have an arranged house in El Renacer with all the irons and their return is conditional on the Public Ministry removing the charges that weigh against their children Luis Enrique and Ricardo for alleged money laundering in the Odebrecht case. This is not a decision that depends on Martinelli, because the State Department has the last word, "he said.


The arrival of Martinelli, warns Bernal, is an element of permanent political agitation at the height of the pre-election period because he will not come to stay silent. 'The return goes far beyond his person, based on the struggle between the Executive and the Legislative, a political settlement is sought so that everyone can remain in power, something like a kind of national coalition, but they do not want the people to have a participation in matters of the State, "said the jurist. Bernal recalled a similar political exercise that can be applied to our days: 'They know that there is widespread discontent that is atomized, what they seek is a new' Mami pact '(Martín Torrijos - Mireya Moscoso) but now it is Martinelli-Varela'.

Chronicles of Monte Friesner – Financial Crime Analyst  

Courtesy of Adelita Coriat ( La Estrella – Panama)