Crime & Justice

Midence Oqueli, 3rd Honduran lawmaker to be put on trial in US

Tegucigalpa, Mar 30 (EFE).- Former Honduran lawmaker Midence Oquili Martinez was extradited to the United States for trial on Thursday, thereby becoming the third ex-legislator from the Central American nation to face justice in the US on three counts linked to drug trafficking and weapons usage.

Martinez, who was being held in a special National Police facility, was taken to Hernan Acosta Bonilla Air Base in southern Tegucigalpa amid strict ground and airborne security.

With his hands handcuffed, the ex-lawmaker for the opposition Liberal Party was handed over to US anti-drug agents by members of the Honduran Special Forces.

Special Forces director Julio Romero oversaw delivery of the 60-year-old Martinez and later made a statement to reporters at the air base.

He said that Martinez “is in perfect shape, his emotional state has been good, he’s a man of great faith. They did all the exams on him, (and) his state of health is stable,” Romero said.

The accused, who served as a lawmaker in Honduras’ lower house for two periods between 2010 and 2018, was captured on Dec. 3, 2022, in Colon province, in Honduras’ Caribbean region, and his extradition was approved by the country’s Supreme Court on March 7.

According to the government version, Martinez stands accused of participating in a conspiracy to smuggle into the US “a controlled substance” as well as manufacturing and distributing a controlled substance with the intention and knowledge that said substance would be illegally imported to the United States, as well as manufacturing, distributing and possessing a controlled substance on board an aircraft registered in that country “in violation of Title 21.”

The second charge against Martinez concerns using and bearing machineguns and destructive devices during and in relation to the crime of drug trafficking and possessing machineguns and destructive devices in violation of Title 18 of the US Criminal Code.

The third charge against the ex-lawmaker refers to his participation in “a conspiracy” to use and bear mechineguns and destructive devices in relation to the crime of drug trafficking and possessing this weaponry in violation of Title 18.

Martinez – who the US says did business with and directly supported drug trafficking by the Los Cachiros cartel, provided the cartel with weapons and facilitated for them the trafficking of illegal substances – is the third former Honduran lawmaker to be sent to the US for trial since May 2014.

In October 2022, former lawmaker Fredy Najera was sentenced by a New York court to 30 years behind bars for drug trafficking and weapons possession.

Najera, 46, was convicted of conspiring to traffic drugs and of possessing weapons and explosive devices during the 2008-2015 period and will have to pay $39 million in reparations and a $10 million fine.

The former lawmaker abused his prominent position to operate a large-scale drug trafficking organization that imported tons of cocaine into the US, prosecutors said.

Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, another former lawmaker and the brother of the ex-president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, was also extradited to the US in April 2022 to face three charges linked to drug trafficking and weapons possession, and he was found guilty and sentenced to life plus 30 years for drug trafficking.

Tony Hernandez, who are arrested on Nov. 23, 2018, at the Miami International Airport, trafficked more than 185,000 kilograms of cocaine between 2004 and 2015, according to Judge Kevin Castel, who placed an embargo on the ex-legislator’s assets and property, valued at $138.5 million.

With Midence Oqueli Martinez, a total of 37 Hondurans have been extradited to the US since 2014 to face assorted charges.

EFE ac/bp

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