Smash-and-grab peak season (1): Martinelli cases

Team Martinelli and their media raise a new issue — now they think that they should beat the rap because of the anti-corruption prosecutor’s watch. From a Martinelista Twitter feed.

Martinelli has a December 11 trial date — but there is a
December 6 hearing to revoke the court’s jurisdiction

by Eric Jackson

If ever a repugnant procedural motion is to prosper in Panama’s courts, this is peak season. People are paying attention to other things in this part of the holiday season, which includes among other things Panamanian Mothers Day and Christmas. So December legal and political maneuvers are common enough, a form of public outcry suppression system. It has been that way for a long time, and this is the final stretch for the Varela presidency and the terms of all other elected officials so the urgency to pull last-minute fast ones is enhanced.

After many delays and frivolous claims that have dulled the public sense of alarm, Ricardo Martinelli has a December 11 trial date for illegal electronic eavesdropping and stealing the government property with which he did that. He could get 21 years in prison.

But meanwhile high court magistrate Oydén Ortega is circulating a draft ruling to derail the whole process by stripping Supreme Court jurisdiction away. The high court tries cases against legislators and when this case started Martinelli was a member of the Central American Parliament. He resigned in the course of the proceedings but at that time the court ruled that once a pretrial process begins the jurisdiction that it had at the outset of the investigation remains. La Prensa reports that Ortega has three votes backing his move, but needs one more for it to succeed. Conversations between Ortega and those magistrates not committed to his plan are reported ongoing. There is a December 6 court plenary session to decide the issue. Just when people are heading for the Interior for a long Mothers Day weekend.

I another high profile case a usual suspect, Judge Leslie Loaiza, has thrown out charges for operpriced helicopter rentals and the use of such government-rented choppers to spy on political adversaries. That would let seven former Martinelli administration officials off the hook — if it stands up on appeal. In his decision Loaiza threatened legal action against anyone who criticizes him in the media.


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