Panama Bans Ex-Leader Martinelli From Presidential Election

Panama’s electoral tribunal disqualified former President Ricardo Martinelli from running in the May presidential election in light of a 10-year sentence he received for money laundering.

The body, which oversees the country’s electoral process, reached the decision on Monday night after 10 hours of debate. In a statement, it said his disqualification was the result of his having been sentenced to more than five years in prison for an intentional crime.

Panama’s Supreme Court last month denied Mr. Martinelli’s appeal of the money laundering conviction in a case in which prosecutors said funds were obtained from government contractors for the 2010 purchase of a publishing house.

A few days after the court ruling, Mr. Martinelli, 71, a conservative businessman who led Panama from 2009 to 2014, was granted asylum by Nicaragua and fled to its embassy in Panama City, the capital.

Panama’s Foreign Ministry declined Nicaragua’s request to allow Mr. Martinelli to leave the country, citing an international agreement on political asylum that states that countries cannot grant asylum to people who have been “duly prosecuted” for nonpolitical crimes.

Mr. Martinelli has said that he is innocent and a victim of political persecution, accusing the current president and vice president of attempting to kill him to prevent him from taking office.

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