PANAMA CITY (AP) — Panama's Supreme Court on Monday ordered the detention of former President Ricardo Martinelli to face charges that he illegally spied on opponents.
The supermarket magnate is accused of illegally intercepting the communications of 150 people during his 2009 to 2014 administration. He's been stripped of his immunity from prosecution in the case, as well as in another probe in which aides are accused of inflating contracts to purchase food for a government social program.
The court on Monday upheld a prosecutor's request to order the detention of the 63-year-old Martinelli after a judge declared him in contempt for failing to appear at a hearing.
The provisional detention order "is fully justified because of the evident inattention to the process on the part of the investigated" party, said a resolution read by judge Luis Mario Carrasco.
Martinelli, who has been outside the Central American country since January, has denied the charges and says he is the target of persecution by his successor
"Like those now detained illegally, I'm a victim of rigged proceedings, of coerced or manufactured witnesses and it is ever more evident the violations to the presumption of innocence and due process," Martinelli said in a letter.