Honduras ex-President Hernandez makes first US court appearance | Courts News

Juan Orlando Hernandez faces drug trafficking and weapons fees after being extradited to america this week.

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez has made his first look in US courtroom after being extradited to the nation to face drug trafficking and weapons fees.

Hernandez, 53, appeared by way of video hyperlink in federal courtroom in New York on Friday. He was not required to enter a plea, and his attorneys didn’t request bail for him however mentioned they might accomplish that at a later date, the AFP information company reported.

A US choose set a Could 10 arraignment listening to for Hernandez, the place he will probably be formally requested whether or not he pleads responsible or not.

Hernandez was extradited on Thursday afternoon from the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, on a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) aircraft certain for the US.

That very same day, US federal authorities unsealed an indictment towards the previous president, accusing him of collaborating in a “corrupt and violent drug-trafficking conspiracy to facilitate the importation of a whole bunch of 1000’s of kilograms of cocaine into america”.

He’s accused of getting facilitated the smuggling of some 500 tonnes of cocaine – primarily from Colombia and Venezuela – to the US by way of Honduras since 2004, beginning lengthy earlier than his presidency.

In flip, he acquired “tens of millions of {dollars} in bribes … from a number of narcotrafficking organizations in Honduras, Mexico and different locations”, US prosecutors allege, together with roughly $1m from Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

However the ex-president, who served two phrases between 2014 and January 2022, has maintained that he’s harmless. He misplaced his immunity from prosecution when he handed energy over to Honduras’s first feminine president, Xiomara Castro, in January.

A ruling by the Honduran Supreme Court docket in late March cleared the way for Hernandez to be extradited to face fees in a New York courtroom.

The US Justice Division mentioned in an announcement on Thursday that Hernandez – as soon as seen as a key US ally within the warfare on medicine – “was allegedly paid tens of millions of {dollars} in cocaine proceeds which he used to complement himself, finance his political campaigns, and commit voter fraud whereas the folks of Honduras endured situations of poverty and rampant violence”.

The US indictment charged Hernandez with three counts of drug and weapons offences that might land him many years in jail if convicted.

Damian Williams, the US legal professional for the Southern District of New York, mentioned throughout a information convention on Thursday night that Hernandez was concerned in “rampant corruption and big cocaine trafficking” that spurred violence in Honduras.

“Honduras grew to become probably the most violent international locations on this planet throughout the defendant’s presidency, and whereas Hernandez amassed cash and political affect, the folks of Honduras endured situations of poverty and violence,” he mentioned.

Hernandez has denied the allegations. In a video message launched Thursday, he mentioned: “I’m harmless; I’ve been and I’m being unjustly subjected to prosecution.”

Honduras ex-President Hernandez on way to US to face drug charges | Politics News

US authorities accuse Juan Orlando Hernandez of receiving thousands and thousands in bribes as a part of a drug-trafficking scheme.

Honduras has extradited former President Juan Orlando Hernandez to the US, the place he is because of face weapons and drug-trafficking fees.

A US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) aircraft took off with Hernandez aboard from the airport in Tegucigalpa, the capital, on Thursday afternoon. Simply three months after leaving workplace, Hernandez boarded the aircraft in handcuffs.

The extradition comes weeks after Honduras’ high court docket in late March cleared the way for Hernandez, who served as president from 2014 till earlier this yr, to be extradited to face fees in a New York court docket.

US authorities have accused the previous chief of collaborating in a drug-trafficking scheme during which he facilitated the smuggling of some 500 tonnes of medicine – primarily from Colombia and Venezuela – to the US through Honduras.

The 53-year-old has denied all the costs, saying they’re a part of a plot orchestrated by enemies who’re attempting to get again at him.

However US prosecutors have alleged Hernandez obtained thousands and thousands of {dollars} from drug traffickers for cover, together with from Mexican narco-kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

As soon as considered as a key ally in Washington’s battle in opposition to drug trafficking, Hernandez misplaced his immunity after handing energy to Xiomara Castro, the country’s first female president, in late January.

He faces three fees: conspiracy to import a managed substance into the US; utilizing or carrying firearms together with machine weapons; and conspiracy to make use of or carry firearms.

Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo, reporting from Buenos Aires, mentioned Hernandez was transported by helicopter from a Honduran particular forces’ army base to an airport, the place the DEA aircraft was selecting him up.

“Hernandez was a really shut ally of the US. In truth, he met with Vice President Biden when he was [part of] the Obama administration. He met with former President Donald Trump,” Bo mentioned. “He was thought of to be doing the best factor on the time as a result of he was combating in opposition to unlawful immigration and aiding the US in that battle.”

She added that whereas this isn’t the primary time {that a} former chief has been accused of drug trafficking, “it’s very, very vital – particularly [in reference] to the US coverage within the area and the battle on medication”.

Some Hondurans had celebrated within the streets of Tegucigalpa, the capital, when Hernandez was arrested in February. A whole bunch of cops had surrounded his residence after a decrease court docket choose issued a warrant for his arrest following the US extradition request.

“The authorities are lastly doing what they need to have achieved a very long time in the past: penalise and put behind bars the individuals who have robbed this nation,” Aaron Hernandez, a 31-year-old Honduran truck driver, told Al Jazeera after the Supreme Courtroom’s choice.

However others has come out in assist of Hernandez, saying they imagine he did nothing mistaken.

“If a citizen is tried, they need to be tried in our nation,” the ex-president’s spouse, Ana Garcia, a lawyer, mentioned as she joined a couple of dozen protesters outdoors the Supreme Courtroom in late March to proclaim Hernandez’s innocence.

A lot of the allegations in opposition to Hernandez emerged in two trials in New York — these of Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, the president’s brother and himself a former Honduran congressman, and Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez.

Each males have been a part of a sprawling drug trafficking case filed in 2015 and each got life sentences. Prosecutors labelled Hernandez a “co-conspirator” in the identical case.

In a letter printed when the Supreme Courtroom issued its choice, Hernandez maintained that he’s harmless and mentioned he’s the “sufferer of revenge and conspiracy”.

His household additionally mentioned in a press release at the moment that they have been “prepared and assured that we’ll have the ability to present the US justice system that these accusations are a revenge plot from Honduran narcos whose empire of crime and violence Juan Orlando destroyed”.