Panama tribunal rules ex-President Martinelli cannot run in election

By Stefanie Eschenbacher and Elida Moreno PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Panama's electoral tribunal has ruled that former President Ricardo Martinelli, who is awaiting trial on wiretapping charges, cannot run in next month's elections, but the politician vowed on Friday to retake the presidency in the following vote. The tribunal has not formally commented on the decision, but a copy of the ruling seen by Reuters said it found Martinelli was not eligible because he did not meet residency requirements. A tribunal official confirmed the ruling was authentic.

Reuters April 27, 2019 01:06:54 IST
Panama tribunal rules ex-President Martinelli cannot run in election

Panama tribunal rules exPresident Martinelli cannot run in election

By Stefanie Eschenbacher and Elida Moreno

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Panama's electoral tribunal has ruled that former President Ricardo Martinelli, who is awaiting trial on wiretapping charges, cannot run in next month's elections, but the politician vowed on Friday to retake the presidency in the following vote.

The tribunal has not formally commented on the decision, but a copy of the ruling seen by Reuters said it found Martinelli was not eligible because he did not meet residency requirements. A tribunal official confirmed the ruling was authentic.

Martinelli was extradited to Panama last June from the United States to face a variety of charges. He had been living in the United States since leaving Panama in 2015.

A 67-year-old supermarket tycoon who led the Central American country from 2009 to 2014, Martinelli was running for mayor of Panama City and a seat in Congress.

Wearing a baseball cap and jeans, he shouted "electoral fraud" to reporters as he entered a courthouse on Friday morning. Eduardo Camacho, a spokesman for Martinelli, called the tribunal's ruling a "political decision."

In a video shared by his lawyer, Martinelli struck a defiant tone, vowing to return to the presidency in 2024.

"This makes me stronger, it makes me humbler," he said. "We will return."

The tribunal ruling noted that if Martinelli had not fought extradition from the United States, he would have returned to Panama in 2017 and "amply complied" with the residency rules.

Martinelli has been charged with spying on 150 people, including politicians, union leaders and journalists. Awaiting trial for spying as well as charges of embezzlement of public funds to finance it, he faces up to 21 years in prison.

None of that stopped the pugnacious businessman and avid tweeter, who is often likened to U.S. President Donald Trump, from mounting a return to public life from his prison cell, decrying the charges as "fake news." Martinelli denies any wrongdoing.

Polls showed Martinelli was the front-runner to be elected mayor of Panama City in May, the second-biggest political post in the country. He was also running a separate campaign for a seat in the National Assembly in case that bid failed.

Analysts expected Martinelli to try to use the mayor's job as a springboard to return to the presidency.

(Reporting by Elida Moreno and Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Leslie Adler)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.