Not guilty of all charges. That was the verdict of Roberto Tejeira, Arlene Caballero and Raúl Vergara , the judges that make up the trial court of the case followed by Ricardo Martinelli for alleged political and peculated espionage.
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The reading of the sentence began yesterday at 6:04 pm, with a room full of people: supporters of the former president, lawyers, and journalists. When the three judges entered the room, there was a deep silence. There was tension in the environment.
Judge Raul Vergara read the sentence. He explained that it was a unanimous decision, based on an analysis of the evidence presented by the Public Ministry (MP), the complainants and the defense.
The ruling argued that the theory of the case presented by the Prosecutor’s Office against Organized Crime could not be proven, in which it was ensured that from the National Security Council (CSN) a group of people, made up of Ronny Rodríguez, William Pittí and Ismael Pittí , carried out espionage and follow-up tasks by Martinelli orders and without judicial authorization, between 2012 and 2014.
The judges argued that while there are indications that illegal activities have been carried out since the CSN, there is a reasonable doubt about Martinelli’s link to these facts.
This, despite the fact that in 2014 the former governor said in an interview that he gave the journalist Álvaro Alvarado, of Telemetro , that he had the dossier of all.
Upon his departure from the trial, former President Martinelli said that everything was a conspiracy. Ana Rentería
They argued that some of the evidence collected by the prosecution did not have the corresponding chain of custody, as required by the accusatory criminal system; and that there was even the participation of officials outside the Public Ministry and the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences (Imelcf) at the time of carrying out proceedings in which the expert Luis Rivera Calle participated.
For the judges, the Public Ministry had to be jealous of their investigation and maintain the separation of powers.
Another aspect that the judges questioned was the fact that the seals of some compact discs introduced as evidence were broken and were susceptible to alterations. In his opinion, a digital analysis of the content of the email email@example.com was never made to establish its origin and meet its author, so there was always doubt about its origin.
They claimed that, although 23 victims said they had recognized their emails, private conversations and illegally obtained photos, the prosecution did not take steps on their computers and cell phones to confirm the veracity of these events and their origin.
This, despite the fact that the majority of the witnesses presented by the prosecutor’s office narrated in the trial how their privacy was violated, how they read their emails, saw their personal photographs and listened to their conversations.
One of those was the Public Prosecutor, Guido Rodríguez, who at the trial said: “I know that from the Presidency they sent to hack the private communications of the people they intended.”
At the hearing, the expert Rivera Calle recognized all the emails obtained from the email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ruling of the judges also reprimanded the prosecution that during the investigation proceedings there was never participation of the defense, which constitutes a ” clear violation of the fundamental guarantees of the accused and his right to defense .”
Regarding the statement of the protected witness 8430145, the ruling noted that while he made a detailed account of how the espionage system worked, and of the people who were part of that structure, it was not possible to prove that they received instructions from the accused .
During his intervention at the trial, the protected witness revealed that every day they sent a report to the Presidency about the communications they intercepted.
The judges also considered that the statement of the protected witness contradicts that given by former CSN director Rolando López , trying to explain why in the properties of the email email@example.com, which he allegedly had prepared, appeared as author Rolando López .
They also stressed that in his statement the protected witness said he did not know the reason why López’s name appeared as the author, since the computer on which he copied the intercepted emails was his property, but in his testimony López said that he had lent his Personal computer to someone who wanted to cooperate with the investigation.
And that this made him “a suspicious witness”, whose statement should be corroborated with other evidence inside the carpet.
For all these reasons, they considered that Martinelli is not guilty of the crimes of monitoring and surveillance without judicial authorization, as well as of interception of telecommunications without judicial authorization.
Last January, Alejandro Garuz and Gustavo Pérez -directors of the CSN in the Martinelli government- were convicted of the punctures, each 80 months in prison. The sentence was appealed. None of this was taken into account in the sentence that declared the exmandatario not guilty.
Nor was the judgment of federal judge Edwin Torres, of the Court of the Southern District of Florida, which two years ago endorsed Martinelli’s extradition from the United States to Panama, alleging that there are “ reasonable grounds to suppose ” that the former president is guilty ” Of all or some of the crimes charged .”
” There are still indications of reliability in this file that Martinelli may have committed the crimes charged, given all the evidence presented, ” Judge Torres said in a 93-page ruling issued on August 31, 2017.
Marta Linares de Martinelli (Der.), At the offices of the First Judicial District, yesterday. Ana Rentería Peculation
Regarding the crimes of embezzlement for embezzlement and peculation of use, the judges of the trial court stated that while mention is made of the equipment purchased with state funds from the company MLM Protection in 2010, the acquisition of the equipment is outside the time frame of the indictment, which is limited to the years 2012-2014.
In turn, they established that there was never a certification of the purchase of Pagasus equipment by the State, and that Martinelli had such equipment in custody.
Once the reading of the ruling was over, there was jubilation in the hall and in the hallways of the building. Some of the former president’s followers insulted the MP staff and the complainants, who had to be guarded by the Police.
Screams, applause, hugs, shoves. A glass door broke and even cut a journalist.
The court ordered the cessation of house arrest to the former president and he left the courtroom.
His wife, Marta Linares; Deputy Mayín Correa, Alma Cortés, Mariela Jiménez, Luis Eduardo Camacho, among others, flanked him. His lawyers congratulated each other and named themselves, “the best in the country.”
From Plaza Ágora, Martinelli moved to his television channel, Nex TV , in which, surrounded by journalists from the channel, said he would like to see the face of former president Juan Carlos Varela.
He showed his fist and said: “I’m going to put a fist.” Then he appeared in an interview in the Panama America newspaper, another of his media. There he said that Varela had “extorted him.”
Meanwhile, outside his home in Altos del Golf, his followers accumulated. In social networks, the outrage grew. “Day of mourning for Panama”, “the country is broken”, “disgust”, “we all go to the street”, were part of the phrases that were read.
It was the bitter end to a case that took its first steps in 2015, the same year Martinelli left the country. He had important chapters in 2016, 2017, and 2018, when the former governor returned extradited to Panama.
In December last year, the Supreme Court of Justice declined its jurisdiction in an ordinary court. The trial began on March 12 of this year and concluded with the best scenario for the man who ruled the country between 2009 and 2014.
Three hours after the sentence, the Judicial Branch sent a press release, indicating that the court maintained the precautionary measure to prevent Martinelli from leaving the country until the sentence was read, next Monday 26 August 2019, at 4:00 pm
Court rejects evidence and declares Martinelli not guilty
Carlos Herrera Morán, lawyer of Mauro Zúñiga (victim of the listeners), described as “aberrant and absurd” the decision of the judges and announced the presentation of an appeal for annulment of the process and another appeal to the Supreme Court of Justice.
Morán alleged that the Public Ministry duly supported the crimes imputed to Martinelli and that the victims of the punctures recognized the emails that were illegally intercepted, violating their fundamental rights.
However, he said he respects the decision of the judges, although he felt that it was contrary to law.
The judgment of the trial court can be appealed by the Public Prosecutor or the complainants before the Superior Court of Appeals and, finally, in cassation before the Second Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice.