The former president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, was sent to prison until at least March 16, resolved the judge who held the first hearing on Wednesday for the extradition request to the United States that claims him for drug trafficking, announced the spokesman for the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), Melvin Duarte.
The judge “has decided to decree provisional arrest of citizen Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado in order to guarantee his presence” at the second hearing on March 16, the official said.
– Deadline for tests –
No later than two days before that new hearing, the United States must submit to the court “the evidence that supports the extradition request, as well as the classification of the crimes (…) and the penalties that are related to the charges attributed to Mr. Hernandez,” the spokesman added.
In the midst of a strong security device, Hernández was transferred to the headquarters of the Special Forces of the National Police where he will be held.
According to Duarte, in other cases the extradition processes have not taken more than four months.
The head of the Special Forces, Miguel Pérez, said that Hernández was installed in a room with a double bed and a bathroom, with enough space where he exercises.
For her part, Ana García, Hernández’s wife, in a statement acknowledged that “as a family we are experiencing difficult times that we do not wish on anyone,” but “God is our main strength and we trust in him that he will do justice.”
“He is not alone!” Shouted dozens of supporters of Hernández’s National Party (PN, right) who came to support him in front of the Court, while supporters of the now ruling party Libertad y Refundación (Libre, left) celebrated the arrest. There was an outbreak of clashes between the two groups.
Hernández, 53, is accused by the US government of trafficking some 500 tons of cocaine through Honduras knowing that it would end up in the United States, the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa said in a statement.
Arrested on Tuesday at the door of his house in Tegucigalpa by the Honduran police in coordination with US agencies, including the DEA anti-drug agency, Hernández offered no resistance and allowed them to put on a bulletproof vest and handcuff his hands and feet with chains.
The judge summoned him for Wednesday morning for the first hearing, in which he read the charges and decided to send him to preventive detention until the next hearing.
– “Narco-state” –
The right-wing former president who left power to the leftist Xiomara Castro on January 27, after ruling Honduras for eight years, is accused of three counts, including “conspiracy to import a controlled substance into the United States.”
He is also accused of “using or carrying firearms (…) machine guns and destructive devices.” A third charge is for “conspiracy to use or carry firearms (…) in support of the conspiracy to import narcotics” into the United States.
US prosecutors called JOH a “co-conspirator” in the indictment against his brother Tony Hernández, a former deputy who was sentenced to life in prison for drug trafficking in New York last year.
They claimed that the former president turned Honduras into a “narco-state.”
During Tony’s trial, US prosecutors claimed that JOH “has received millions of dollars in bribes from drug traffickers such as Chapo Guzmán, who personally gave a million dollars” to Tony to bribe his brother.
Geovanny Fuentes, another Honduran drug trafficker tried in New York and sentenced to life in prison in February, was accused by the United States of acting in collusion with JOH.
Hernández denies everything and assures that the United States bases its accusations on “declarations of drug traffickers and confessed murderers” who were extradited by their government.
The former president is currently a deputy of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), a benefit that all former presidents of the region have access to upon leaving office.
Although his lawyers affirm that this grants him immunity, the Parlacen regulations do not contemplate this privilege for those who do not enjoy immunity in their own country. Honduran deputies do not have immunity.
The Parlacen can also “lift and suspend the immunities and privileges of its deputies” at the request of the governments of the countries that comprise it.
The head of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken, said last week that Hernández was included in July in a list of people accused of corruption or undermining democracy in Central America, and ordered “visa restrictions against the former president (…) due to corrupt acts.
“According to multiple credible media reports,” Hernandez “has engaged in significant corruption by committing or facilitating acts of corruption and drug trafficking, and by using the proceeds of illicit activities for political campaigns,” Blinken said.
Fabio Lobo, son of former Honduran president Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo (2010-2014) -of the National Party, the same as the Hernández- was sentenced to 24 years in prison in New York in 2017 for helping to traffic 1.4 tons of cocaine to the United States.