UPDATE: Former President of Honduras Juan Orlando Henandez was taken into police custody on Tuesday after a judge ordered his arrest amid an extradition request from the United States on accusations of drug trafficking. Scores of police escorted him from his home.
(CMR) The United States has requested the arrest and extradition of former Honduras President Juan Orlando Henandez. Scores of Honduran police officers reportedly surrounded the former president's house on Monday following the request.
The president of Honduras Supreme Court of Justice called an urgent session of the full court for Tuesday morning, 15 February, to choose a judge to consider the extradition request from the United States.
According to Reuters, speculation has been swirling for months that the United States was planning to extradite Hernandez when he left office amid accusations that he colluded with drug traffickers. Leftist leader Xiomara Castro replaced him as president last month.
The United States had already placed Hernandez on a blacklist, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken this month said there were credible reports Hernandez “has engaged in significant corruption by committing or facilitating acts of corruption and narco-trafficking.”
Hernández's attorney, Hermes Ramírez, accused authorities of being unfair to the former president.
“At this time, the secretary of security is violating the rule of law by wanting to execute an arrest order violating the procedure that is established by law. It is clear the abuse that my client ex-President Juan Orlando Hernández is the subject of,” Ramírez told local news media.
“They are trying to trample on the rights of President Hernandez,” Ramirez said.
According to Reuters, Hernandez formally joined the Guatemala-based regional body, called Parlacen, just a few hours after Castro's inauguration as president. Parlacen affords members immunity from prosecution in Central America, though that immunity can be removed or suspended if a member's home country requests it.
Luis Javier Santos, Honduras' best-known anti-corruption prosecutor, said on Twitter that “there is no impediment to his extradition.”
Throughout his time in power Hernandez, cultivated close ties to Washington and most notably won the support of former US President Donald Trump, using Honduran security forces to help the Republican leader cut down on US-bound land migration routes from Central America.
However, he has been accused of receiving bribes while a member of Honduras' congress and directed bribes to other lawmakers so they would support him as the body's president.
Hernández took office in 2014, and US authorities said he continued receiving drug profits while in office in exchange for allowing drugs to move through Honduras.
Hernández was also named as a “co-conspirator” in the case of convicted drug trafficker Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez. He was accused of accepting bribes from Fuentes Ramírez and other drug traffickers from his time as a presidential candidate up through at least 2019.
Last year, a US judge sentenced Hernandez's brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, to life in prison plus 30 years for drug trafficking.