Honduras Judge Approves Extradition of Ex-President to U.S.

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Former President Juan Orlando Hernández should be extradited to the United States to face drug-trafficking and weapons charges, a Honduran judge ruled on Wednesday.

The Honduran authorities detained Mr. Hernández in February, capping a spectacular downfall for one of Central America’s most powerful men.

He is expected to appeal the extradition decision.

During the court hearing, the judge presented a document sent by the United States Justice Department through the American embassy in the capital, Tegucigalpa, that laid out the charges against Mr. Hernández. His lawyers also presented at least 20 pieces of evidence in his defense.

Mr. Hernández is accused of participating in a “violent drug-trafficking conspiracy” that since 2004 has transported 500 tons of cocaine from Venezuela and Colombia to the United States via Honduras, according to the document.

The authorities said he had received millions of dollars in bribes for facilitating the shipments and shielding traffickers from prosecution.

The former president’s brother, Juan Antonio Hernández, is serving a life sentence in the United States for cocaine trafficking. Another convicted cocaine trafficker who implicated the former president, Geovanny Fuentes, received the same sentence.

The former leader has denied having ties to drug traffickers. Addressing the court during a hearing on Wednesday, he questioned the motives behind the extradition process, according to Melvin Duarte, a court spokesman.

Mr. Hernández has maintained that statements made against him by extradited drug traffickers came from people seeking revenge.

Mr. Hernández led the country for eight years and stepped down in January, at the conclusion of his second term. When he was detained last month, he was escorted by security officers from his home, wearing a bulletproof vest and shackles that bound him hand and foot.

Fireworks exploded around Tegucigalpa after he was led away from his home, and about 100 protesters who had gathered around his residence celebrated his detention.

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