The Public Ministry failed to prove its theory of the case , as a lot of reasonable doubts arose that forced the accused to acquit.
Court affirms that there were failures in puncture investigation
That was the conclusion of judges Roberto Tejeira, Raúl Vergara and Arlene Caballero , who formed the trial court in the process followed by former president Ricardo Martinelli , and that last August 9 resulted in a declaration of not guilty. The sentence was read on the night of August 26.
Martinelli faced a sentence of up to 21 years in prison for the alleged commission of four crimes: inviolability of secrecy and the right to privacy, and two forms of peculation (use and embezzlement). However, the judges considered that, with respect to the first two crimes, the absence of judicial authorization to carry out the interceptions was not proven. In other words, there was no evidence that these espionages were illegal.
In the same vein, the prosecutor’s office – always according to the judges – did not even prove that there were interceptions of the communications, nor did he properly accredit the use of spy equipment, specifically the so-called Pegasus system. In that sense, the ruling indicates that there is no record that the messages intercepted to the victims (and that they recognized in different judicial proceedings and before the court) in fact come from Pegasus. Nor was the financial involvement of the State with respect to the loss of the Pegasus equipment substantiated through an audit, nor was an inventory of the assets stolen from the National Security Council (CSN) presented, which supports the accusation of the crimes of peculation.
Regarding MLM Protection , this system – and its Circle program – is not part of the accused, as stated in the written sentence read by Judges Tejeira, Vergara and Caballero, last Monday, although there is an audit of the Comptroller General of the Republic in which it is detailed that a damage to the State is credited for $ 10 million for the purchase of this equipment.
YES THERE WERE ‘IRREGULAR SITUATIONS’ IN THE CSN, AT THE MARGIN OF THE LAW
The reading of the sentence – of 117 pages – took four hours and 35 minutes, according to the Judicial Branch. In said document, in a “meticulous” way, each of the testimonial, expert and documentary evidence presented in the act of oral trial, which formally began last March 12, is detailed.
“In the development of the trial, specifically at the beginning of the stage of probation evacuation, a series of incidents arose regarding some evidence,” says the ruling. However, he acknowledges that “irregular situations have certainly been reported that activities were carried out outside the Executive Decree 263 of March 19, 2010 in the National Security Council,” which applies to the CSN.
For example, they refer to the seven booklets with confidential information of the victims of espionage, and whose access was declared confidential by the Supreme Court of Justice. In the intermediate stage of the process, Judge Jerónimo Mejía – acting as judge of guarantees – authorized a member of the defense – Carlos Carrillo, coordinator of the Martinelli team of lawyers – to review the contents of the carpets. But according to Judges Tejeira, Caballero and Vergara, this decision by Mejía prevented the defense from preparing for the contradictory in the trial or practicing expert evidence.
They also mention Ishmael Pitti , alias “Brad”, a former CSN agent assigned to espionage tasks and who at all times had been identified by the prosecution – and by the actors in the stages before the oral trial – as the protected witness No 843014 . Pitti described “in a structured, chronological manner and on his own initiative”, the events that occurred between 2011 and 2014 in the building 150 of the CSN, such as the installation of Pegasus and the follow-up of several objectives, according to him, in direct order of the time President Martinelli
THE TESTIMONY OF ISMAEL PITTÍ
Pittí, who voluntarily stripped the protection measure before the court, said – among other things – that the team trained to operate Pegasus – acquired from the Israeli NSO Group Tchnologies Ltd – was made up of him and agents Ronny Rodríguez ( aka Didier) – also deputy director of the CSN – and William Pittí (aka Guillermo), both fugitives. Ismael Pittí told how they communicated the communications of leaders of the Suntracs, the PRD and the Panameñista, of the Association of Educators Veraguenses … “all of interest to the President of the Republic”.
“From the information generated by the Pegasus system, a daily report was drawn up on the relevant facts that could shield or violate each target, it was passed to word and at the end of the day that documents were unified, printed and put in a yellow envelope, that Ronny Rodríguez delivered every day in the morning to the President of the Republic and he knows that, because many times Ronny told us that the envelope had to be delivered directly to the President; if the President was out of the country, Ronny did not carry any report; the work was done, accumulated until he returned, everything that had been collected in those days was printed and he took it personally, “said Ismael Pittí, according to an excerpt from his testimony collected in the ruling of the trial court.
He also said that, in May 2014, supposedly by order of Martinelli, they moved some equipment to the offices of Super 99 in Monte Oscuro. The Konica Minolta printer, which was used to print word documents that were taken daily to the Presidency, was acidic, to damage the backup system. They did not take her, because it was part of the CSN inventory.
The conduct shown by this witness “caught the attention” of the court.
The judges report that Pitti said that on July 28, 2014 he met with Commissioner Jacinto Cárdenas , first, and then President Juan Carlos Varela , later, to talk about an interception team that “they knew operated in building 150 of the National Security Council “.
“He first denied it, then acknowledged that he was an operator of the same and so they asked him to go before the corresponding authorities to report the incident,” the ruling said. The judges wonder if Pittí was informed of “his constitutional right not to self-incriminate himself” and why Varela and Cárdenas did not present the complaint themselves. They also criticize that Pitti, in his first approach with the Assistant Prosecutor’s Office, said he had information about the events that occurred in the CSN, and did not present himself as a witness to those facts.
After his complaint, Ismael Pittí was sent to be part of the permanent mission of Panama to the Organization of American States (OAS), based in Washington and with a salary of $ 7,000.
They also state that Pitti said he was the author of several emails in which he downloaded information about the punctures, but when the properties of these digital documents were opened, “author: Rolando López ” was read. Pitti could not explain why. Subsequently, when López – director of the CSN in the past government – went to the trial as a witness to the complainants, “he came into contradictions with what was said by the protected witness.”
All this – according to the court – makes him a “suspicious witness”, which implies that his credibility has been affected, compromised, by virtue of strong grounds of bias and interest.
‘MUSCLE AND TICKET’
Regarding Rolando López, the ruling reflects his testimony, when he told the court that on July 4, 2014, at a reception organized by the US embassy, Martinelli told him: “I have ‘muscle and ticket.’ Stop questioning. for the teams, that that was at the bottom of the sea. ” The court does not make any assessment of what Martinelli would have said to López, but he does question why the latter, who was the director of the CSN, did not file the respective complaint (it is not specified what the crime would be reported).
Regarding the digital evidence presented, the court considers that the Public Prosecutor’s Office “had serious difficulties” in incorporating such evidence to trial, and notes that the expert Luis Rivera Calle , chief of Informatics of the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences (Imelcf), warned that the security seals on the compact discs were broken and that this worried him because some discs were “rewritable, that is, they could be added or removed information.” Nor could he attest to the chain of custody. Although that was the case, the ruling does not say that Rivera Calle subsequently recognized all the material contained in the records.
For the same acts for which Martinelli was acquitted, Alejandro Garuz and Gustavo Pérez, both directors of the National Security Council in their government, were sentenced each to 80 months in prison.