The wiretapping trial of former Panama president Ricardo Martinelli began at 11:39 am on Wednesday, July 21, after an open recess had been declared in order to resolve a request made by Martinelli's legal team, to suspend the trial for health reasons.
The court - made up of judges Iveth Francois Vega (president), Jennifer Saavedra (rapporteur), and Marysol Osorio ruled that Martinelli could follow the trial remotely from his residence, in accordance with the provisions of the Penal Code. After hearing the decision, Martinelli said that he preferred to go personally to the room. "I will come as many times as I can," he said.
The defense said Martinelli is taking pain medications, which can sometimes make him drowsy, so the doctor suggested complete rest. Earlier, when he entered the courtroom, Martinelli stated that he should be working, rather than going to trial, which he described as "political bullshit."
"For more appeals that were filed so that the hearing did not take place, the trial formally began this morning," said the political leader Balbina Herrera, one of the plaintiffs in the process. "The accused may be in the comfort of his home.
Once the trial began formally, the prosecutor Ricaurte González, indicated to the judges that investigation shows that, between 2012 and 2014, by order of Martinelli, the communications of at least 150 people were spied upon, without judicial authorization, from the offices of the National Security Council (CSN) using personnel and equipment of that entity.
Among the targets of the CSN were politicians, businessmen, journalists, magistrates, personnel from the United States embassy in Panama, union leaders, and opponents of Martinelli.
For these same events, two former CSN directors ( Alejandro Garúz and Gustavo Pérez ) were sentenced to five years in prison. Garúz, in addition to being a former official, is Martinelli's father-in-law.
After hearing the prosecution’s opening statement, the court declared a recess until 9:00 am on Thursday, July 22.
"We are wasting time, and the money of the Panamanian people," said Martinelli, as he left.
Security has been strengthened at the offices of the First Judicial Circuit of Panama, in Plaza Ágora, where the trial is taking place.
Prosecutor González reported that Martinelli faces the maximum penalty of eight years in prison, four for each of the crimes committed to him: interception of communications without judicial authorization and monitoring without judicial authorization. The two crimes of embezzlement were excluded from the indictment when the appeal court ordered a new trial last November.