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Although places like New Orleans and Mobile do, by and large the USA does not celebrate Carnival. So while Panamanians were out celebrating a party that the church to which most nominally belong dislikes, the US federal courts were not taking a holiday. So during Carnival Judge Marcia G. Cooke, having rejected Ricardo Martinelli’s appeal against a magistrate’s extradition order, granted the former Panamanian president bail while he appeals the extradition rulings to the US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Alarmed prosecutors filed an emergency motion to stay Judge Cooke’s bail decision, but in any case a decision on bail by the appellate panel became moot the next day when Cooke granted the prosecution the stay that they have been seeking at the higher level. Whatever you may have read in the Panamanian dailies, mainly by those versed better in Panamanian than US law and with their sometimes unacknowledged points of view, there were ordinary decisions. Ordinarily the US courts extradite without hearing all of the merits of the case for which a foreign government seeks to extradite — probable cause suffices. Ordinarily there is no bail in extradition matters. When a judge or magistrate makes an unusual ruling to grant bail in such a case, ordinarily the prosecution gets a state if it requests one, above all because it’s so unusual to grant bail.
The emergency motion for a stay rendered moot by the lower court decision, the appeals court issued its schedule for the prosecution appeal of Cooke’s main decision granting bail. The burden is on the prosecution but it’s not a “burden of proof” in the sense of proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors must show why, as a matter of fact and a matter of law, bail can be and should be denied.
The court gave the prosecutors — “the petitioners — 21 days to file its motion with all supporting documents. Then Martinelli’s side — “the respondent” — get 14 days to answer, with all that they have to say and attach. Then the petitioners have seven days to respond to whatever Martinelli’s lawyers might bring up. That strings the bail arguments before the Court of Appeals out into April. How long until a decision then? It will be up to a three-judge panel.
Things may move quickly after that, or maybe not. The problem for Martinelli is that the probability of his prevailing on the merits of the extradition case are one of the central factors in the bail decision and the appeals court has told the parties to bring all their arguments in this motion. A compounding problem is that Martinelli has been before the Court of Appeals and has approached the US Supreme Court about bail before, when appealing the magistrate’s initial decision denying bail.
In the prior bail appeals, Martinelli’s arguments were exceptionally lame, such that the Supreme Court did not grant certiorari to hear them. It was all about dissimilar cases brought up to show that bail might be granted and a bunch of procedure and interpretation that might get the attention of a Panamanian court but to a US court just looks like hieroglyphics from the legal system of another planet.
Has Martinelli spokesman Luis Eduardo Camacho telegraphed the ex-president’s substantive case? Camacho says that Martinelli can’t come back to Panama because the political and judicial conditions to get him off of the many criminal charges against him do not exist. The inability to get a fair trial, and the probability of political persecution, are the ordinary stuff of foreign politicians fighting extradition. ‘I’m this important guy and must be granted all of the usual privileges and impunity which I have grown up expecting,’ though, will put a party before a US court on a fast track toward being blown off as one with a frivolous case. And is the argument that Martinelli can’t get a fair trial before a Supreme Court with a majority of its members his appointees? The higher one gets in the US legal system, the less weight that sort of plea is likely to be given.
The likely outcome of the bail matter is that sometime in April the appeals court will reject bail for Ricardo Martinelli. If that happens, look for the US Supreme Court to summarily decline to hear any further appeal of that matter.
But consider then what would happen if the underlying habeas corpus case, or a new one, comes up to the federal appellate courts. Twice, then, Martinelli will have been up on that level arguing that he deserves bail, among other reasons because the habeas corpus motion has strong merits. Having been told to muster all of their client’s arguments and having had those rejected, look for the US courts to be weary of Martinelli motions and perhaps summarily answer them with one word: “Denied.”
Martinelli’s strongest hope? That the often incoherent Trump administration will decide for one reason or another as a matter of policy to desist from the former Panamanian president’s extradition.
According to the government, there were:
… plus they had this little Carnival Monday fire of mysterious origin at the Avesa building, on its seventh floor which houses prosecutors and forensic scientists. We are are assured that nobody was hurt and nothing much lost – JUST THE SERVER ON WHICH THE ANTI-CORRUPTION, DRUG AND ORGANIZED CRIME PROSECUTORS STORE AND MOVE THEIR ELECTRONIC INFORMATION FILES.
Since 1790 many of Panama’s devout Catholics have been making pilgrimages to the small town of Atalaya, in Veraguas a few miles southeast of Santiago. The -statue of Jesus in that town’s chapel had been there since 1730 and the annual mega-event began to take its modern force in 1912.
Some folks from far away began walking, often in purple robes, while others were celebrating Carnival. Others are walking now and some, coming by whatever means of transportation, are already there. The big events are on this coming weekend, with a procession and a Sunday mass that typically attracts about 200,000 people but may be larger this year.
Larger? First because in a way it’s part of the run-up to Catholic Church’s January 2019 World Youth Festival that will take place in Panama. Second because a lot of conservative Catholics are inflamed about the possibilities of sex education in the schools and same-sex marriages. (Those hot button issues not only pit them against folks who are for those things, but also intensify the rivalry with Evangelicals who have been winning converts at the Catholic Church’s expense for many years and are now in the process of launching their own religious right political party.)
In any case, the Transito cops’ big mobilization for Carnival may be over, but many of them are working along with the bomberos, the SINAPROC disaster relief agency and local officials to make the pilgrimage, procession and crush at the Basilica Menor de Atalaya safe for all. There has already been at least one person run over en route to Atalaya this year.
This year the Afro-Antillean Museum of Panama is closed for renovation and the Antillean Fair, which is the principal fundraising event for the Society of Friends of the Afro-Antillean Museum of Panama (SAMAAP) was not the biggest we have seen. Since the move from the museum grounds a few years ago to ATLAPA the attendance has been up, but there have been bigger events with more people, more vendors and more live acts onstage that this year. Seems to be a money issue — although they get some support from the National Institute of Culture (INAC), money does not grow on trees and they are spending down quite a bit of theirs on the museum at the moment.
This reporter, who spent most of the fair staffing a voter information table for US citizens — especially the many members of the West Indian community here who have dual US and Panamanian citizenship — did not pig out as in some years past. Some sous, some torrejas de bacalao, a couple of little coconut pastries and bottles of saril and ginger beer were this year’s treats. The cravings for Jamaican-style sticky buns and fish deep-fried in oil that has whole hot peppers in it will have to be satisfied some other time, although they could have been at the fair.
Yes, they sold beer. But there were not the fights or obvious drunkenness that characterizes most other Carnival events. This year the playground for the kids was expanded and they were having a great time bouncing, climbing and sliding. The assimilation, not only into Spanish but between Panama’s Colonial Black and West Indian cultures and the adoption of Pan-African styles continues its long development. There were as usual a bunch of visitors from the diaspora — this reporter talked to folks from Houston, Brooklyn, the District of Columbia and environs, Florida, Atlanta and California. The proceeds will go toward preserving the history of the people who built — and continue to build — so much of Panama.
[At the time that this was uploaded, the bail order was stayed as the prosecutors filed an emergency appeal with the US Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Unless and until that stay is lifted, the former Panamanian president remains in jail.]