Crime & Justice

Honduran ex-leader’s defense to appeal if judge OKs extradition to US

Tegucigalpa, Mar 16 (EFE).- Defense attorneys for former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez said they will appeal to the country’s Supreme Court if the judge overseeing the case grants the US request to have him extradited on drug trafficking charges.

Rosa Bonilla, one of the attorneys defending Hernandez, made the announcement on Wednesday, saying that if the judge rules that her client is to be extradited to the US the defense team will appeal.

Hernandez served as the country’s president for eight years and left office on Jan. 27, 2022. Prior to becoming president, he had headed the Honduran Parliament from 2010-2014.

Bonilla also said that the defense team has “very weighty arguments and overwhelming proof to demand that the extradition request not be granted.”

The US filed the extradition request with the Honduran Foreign Ministry on Feb. 14, 2022.

Hernandez was scheduled to appear on Wednesday morning before a judge for the second time, a hearing that was set on Feb. 16 when he was initially brought into court.

Supreme Court spokesman Melvin Duarte told reporters that the Wednesday “hearing” will include the “presentation … of evidence” during which “the parties will be provided with all the certified documentation, duly translated, that was sent by the United States in this case by the District Court for the Southern District of New York, which is requesting it.”

Duarte added that the ex-president’s defense attorneys will be given sufficient time “so that they understand and (can make) a detailed reading of the information that was sent (by the US).”

If the judge grants the extradition request, the defense has three days to appeal the ruling to the full Supreme Court.

The ex-president was taken into custody at his home on Feb. 15 and had his wrists and ankles handcuffed. He has been held at facilities of the National Police’s Special Forces in eastern Tegucigalpa since that time.

For “security reasons,” Hernandez was taken by helicopter to the Supreme Court building, where he was to appear before the judge at 9 am on Wednesday.

The director of the National Police Special Forces, Miguel Perez, said that the helicopter transfer was made because of reports that people coming from all over the country “were going to block the police caravan so that (Hernandez) could not get to the scheduled hearing on time, and so that it would definitely be rescheduled.”

He also said that statements by Hernandez’s wife, Ana Garcia, that the ex-president was not being allowed out in the sunshine each day were false.

“He is having an hour of sun. During that hour he does physical exercise and immediately upon finishing he is returned to his (cell) and there is a police commissioner on duty watching over him 24 hours a day. He is in excellent (health), there is a doctor who cares for him 24 hours a day and every four hours he is checking (Hernandez’s) blood pressure and vital signs and there is no problem,” Perez said.

In addition, the police spokesman said that the ex-president was “looking good” and “well-dressed” on Wednesday, wearing a dark suit and tie, along with a facemask, according to television images in which he is seen being brought handcuffed to the helicopter and then upon his arrival at the Supreme Court guarded by several police officers.

“The suit was brought to him by his family for the hearing. He came perfectly well attired, calm and greeting people,” Perez said.

EFE gr/dmt/bp

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