(Update 1: Details throughout)
Tegucigalpa, Mar 16 (EFE).- A Honduras court on Wednesday authorized the extradition of former president Juan Orlando Hernández to the United States to face drug trafficking and weapons charges.
“Judge (Edwin Ortez) of the first instance extradition court decided to concede the extradition request filed by the New York Southern District Court for the former president of the Republic Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado,” Honduran Supreme Court spokesperson Melvin Duarte told reporters after a hearing that lasted nearly 12 hours.
He added that Hernández “could not be tried for crimes different from those that have been presented in the hearing, and could similarly not be tried for crimes pertaining to acts committed before 2012.”
The spokesperson said he did not know when the ex-president would be extradited, and added that if the Supreme Court upheld the decision, processes would need to be carried out with other institutions such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa.
Hernández’s defense team said in a statement that “the US government had not provided any credible or sufficient evidence showing the involvement of the citizen and former president in drug trafficking activities, as required under the Extradition Treaty, for the judge to allow the extradition request.”
For security reasons, Hernández was flown to the Supreme Court premises in a helicopter from the national special police forces unit, where he has been kept since Feb. 15, after being arrested at his residence. He was taken back to the unit after the verdict.
Dozens of supporters of the leader, who was elected president in 2014 from the conservative National Party, protested outside the court, holding placards proclaiming his innocence.
Former first lady Ana García insisted that her husband was innocent and thanked supporters.
Hernández has repeatedly denied having links with drug traffickers and accused his detractors, including US judicial authorities, of being part of a revenge plot by traffickers who were extradited to the US during his term and are now seeking a reduction in their terms in the North American country.
He is the first former president of Honduras to be requested in extradition by the US to prosecute him for drug trafficking.
On Mar 31, 2021, his brother Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández was sentenced to life in prison in the uS on drugs and weapons charges. EFE