Extradited ex-Panama president Martinelli hospitalised

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Martinelli had initially contested his extradition in the United States but dropped his appeals.

Former Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli is being escorted to a plane by USA security officials on Monday.

Former Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli returned to Panama to face political espionage and embezzlement charges after being extradited from the United States on Monday.

Martinelli was jailed in the United States previous year after Panama requested his extradition on charges that he used public money to spy on more than 150 political rivals during his 2009-2014 term.

Fellow members of Martinelli's Democratic Change (CD) party gathered outside the capital's Tocumen International Airport on Monday and waved party flags in a show of support for the ex-president.

Martinelli Berrocal was indicted in Panama for embezzling more than $10 million in public funds and using an extensive surveillance system to illegally monitor about 150 people's communications. He is also under investigation in about 20 other cases of corruption. Panama qualified for the tournament, which begins on Thursday.

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The extradition honored a 1905 treaty [text, PDF].

The former president was arrested in June 2017 near Miami, where he had lived after leaving his country in 2015.

According to press reports, the former governor, who was imprisoned for nearly a year in a federal prison in the U.S. state of Florida, departed on a Jet Logistics flight from the Opa-Locka airport in Miami-Dade County.

His return to Panama comes at a time of political turbulence as the country prepares for general elections in May.

Martinelli is barred by term limits from running for president before 2024, but he hopes to run for a mayorship or a congressional seat, his spokesman Luis Eduardo Camacho has said.

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