World / Politics

Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli found not guilty of political espionage

AP

A Panamanian court has cleared former President Ricardo Martinelli of political espionage during his administration and ordered him released from house arrest, though the judges are continuing an order barring him from leaving the country.

The three-judge panel declared Martinelli “not guilty” Friday of charges stemming from the purported spying on the communications of at least 150 people and of the alleged misuse of public funds to purchase the equipment to carry out the intercepts during his 2009-2014 administration.

Prosecutors had been seeking a 21-year prison term. Martinelli declared his innocence.

The 67-year-old supermarket tycoon was extradited from Miami in 2018 to face trial in Panama. He initially was ordered held at El Renancer prison during the judicial proceedings, but the trial court transferred him to house arrest in June.

He was charged specifically with interception of communications without judicial authorization; monitoring, persecution and surveillance without judicial authorization; and improperly purchasing espionage equipment with state funds.