Panama ex-President Martinelli granted pre-trial house arrest

Panama's former president Ricardo Martinelli yells at the media while leaving the Electoral Court in Panama City

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - A Panamanian court granted house arrest to the country's former leader Ricardo Martinelli on Wednesday, allowing him to leave prison while he awaits trial for an espionage case stemming from his 2009-2014 presidency, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday.

Martinelli, 67, had been in jail ahead of his trial on charges of spying on 150 people, including politicians, union leaders and journalists. Pre-trial arguments are already being heard. The supermarket magnate was extradited from the United States to Panama a year ago.

"The trial court revoked the provisional jail order, which had been imposed on June 11, 2018. After one year of being in effect, the order is replaced by a house arrest order," said a statement from Panama's Supreme Court.

Martinelli could face up to 21 years in prison.



(Reporting by Elida Moreno, Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Susan Thomas)