Honduran ex-president seeks house arrest as US seeks extradition

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Tegucigalpa (AFP) – Lawyers for Honduran ex-president Juan Orlando Hernandez, wanted on drug trafficking charges in the United States, requested on Monday that he be placed under house arrest while the extradition case against him continues, a doorman said. -word.

The 53-year-old is accused of facilitating the smuggling of some 500 tons of drugs – mostly from Colombia and Venezuela – into the United States via Honduras since 2004.

In turn, he would have received “millions of dollars in bribes (…) from several drug trafficking organizations in Honduras, Mexico and elsewhere”, according to a document from the American embassy in Tegucigalpa.

Washington requested on February 14 that he be extradited to the United States to face charges.

He was arrested and detained at the headquarters of the special forces, in the east of the capital Tegucigalpa.

A judge has ruled that Hernandez will remain there in protective custody until a second hearing next month.

But on Monday, Hernandez’s defense team requested “the change in the measure of detention … at his home, under house arrest,” Supreme Court spokesman Melvin Duarte said.

The court had said on Twitter that the judge had agreed to hear an appeal from the defense team to revoke Hernandez’s pretrial detention.

The appeal must be approved by the 15 justices of the Supreme Court.

In power for eight years until Jan. 27, when leftist Xiomara Castro was sworn in as Honduras’ first female president, Hernandez was taken from his home in Tegucigalpa by Honduran police acting in coordination with U.S. agencies , including the Drug Enforcement Administration.

While the right-wing politician had presented himself as an ally in the US war on drugs during his tenure, traffickers arrested in the United States claimed to have paid bribes to the president’s entourage.

Hernandez’s brother, former Honduran congressman Tony Hernandez, was sentenced to life in the United States in March 2021 for drug trafficking.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Feb. 7 that “according to multiple credible media reports, Hernandez “engaged in significant corruption by committing or facilitating acts of bribery and narcotics trafficking and using the proceeds illicit activities to facilitate political campaigns”. .”

Ana Garcia, wife of former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, speaks before the National Human Rights Commission Orlando SIERRAAFP

Hernandez denies the allegations, which he says were part of a revenge plot for traffickers his government had captured or extradited to the United States.

His wife, Ana Garcia, appeared before the National Human Rights Commission on Monday to protest the manner in which her husband was arrested.

“You passed on all the footage of the humiliating and degrading way my husband was treated,” she told reporters. “The authorities who authorized the use of shackles and chains… exhibited it publicly as a trophy.”

But Deputy Security Minister Julissa Villanueva said she checked Hernandez’s detention conditions on Monday and found “no human rights violations, cruel or degrading treatment”.