Panama's former president, Ricardo Martinelli, failed to attend a mandatory appearance before a court in Panama City,where he is charged with conducting illegal electronic surveillance, and he has been held in contempt of court. On then-President Martinelli's orders, his National Security Council illegally intercepted email, telephone call, and other communications, where there was an expectation of privacy.
Martinelli, who faces a potential maximum sentence of twenty-one years of imprisonment, spied upon over 150 Panamanians, who were opposition leaders, journalists, and prominent members of Panamanian society and industry. He allegedly fears for his physical safety, should he return to Panama, and has claimed that he cannot get a fair trial at this time. The ex-president faces a dozen other cases in Panama, and there has been a growing movement, among Panamanians, for him to face justice for his corruption, human rights violations, and illegal surveillance program.
The Supreme Court of Justice can now file extradition papers in Washington, seeking Martinelli, who is now living comfortably in Miami, where many former dictators have retired to. The question is, will reformist President Varela demand that it take that step ? Or will Martinelli have the last laugh, at the expense of the people of the Republic of Panama ?