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Panama court orders detention of ex-president Martinelli

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Panama City: Panama’s Supreme Court has ordered the detention of former president Ricardo Martinelli, prompting the absent millionaire supermarket tycoon today to furiously dismiss the ruling as a “political trial.”

Martinelli, who ruled the Central American country between 2009 and 2014, was ordered to be taken into custody for failing to show up for a trial on charges of spying on opponents.

His whereabouts are unknown. He left the country in January this year on a plane headed to Florida, a day after the Supreme Court started hearing corruption allegations against him, and there is speculation he is staying in Miami.

Today, hours after the court decided the detention order, he tweeted from his account that it was “Round 1 of a political trial: without process, without accusation, without due notification and without a conviction, a provisional detention was ordered.”

He argued that he is backed by Panama’s constitution, which he said contains no law against the tapping of telephones.

Earlier this month Panama’s Supreme Court declared Martinelli in contempt when he failed to show up for his trial on the spying charges.

The accusations are part of a raft of allegations against him of misconduct during his time overseeing a massive construction boom in Panama.

Martinelli, 63, and his former police and security chiefs are accused of intercepting the communications of about 150 opposition politicians, journalists, activists and business executives.

The absence from the country of the ex-leader forced judges to suspend their proceedings on the matter.

Panama has already filed an Interpol notice for his arrest.