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Former president put in shackles

The ex-President of Honduras has been paraded through the streets in handcuffs after being arrested on drug-trafficking charges.

Juan Orlando Hernandez only left office three weeks ago but was detained at the request of the US because of his alleged links to cartels.

He was escorted from his home in chains and a bullet-proof vest on Tuesday to a police base in the country’s capital, Tegucigalpa.

The arrest was broadcast on national television and he was also examined by a medical team in front of the cameras, before spending a night in the cells.

Hernandez, a right-winger, is accused of helping drugs gangs receive tonnes of cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela, which were then shipped onwards to the United States between 2004 and 2022.

He is alleged to have received millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for protecting traffickers from investigation and prosecution, which he used to fund his political campaigns.

A extradition request also detailed firearms charges including carrying, using, or aiding and abetting the use of weapons, including machine guns.

Hernandez, 53, who was replaced as president last month by leftist Xiomara Castro, has pledged to cooperate with national police. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez is escorted by police officers after arriving at a police base following his detention at his house, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras February 15, 2022. Honduras National Police/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES REFILE - CORRECTING TITLE
(Picture: Reuters)
(Picture: Getty)

He had been holed up in his home surrounded by about 100 police officers late on Monday, after Honduran authorities received the U.S. request for his extradition.

Honduras’ Supreme Court still has to make a judgement on the request in a process that could last between two and three months.

Henandez’ lawyers have argued that he has immunity from prosecution as a member of a regional congress, having joined the Central American Parliament just a few hours after leaving office on January 27.

The immunity bestowed by this six-country regional body, which comprises elected officials as well as former presidents and vice presidents, can however be removed or suspended at the request of a member’s home country.

Former Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez looks on at the Police Special Forces after being detained by members of the Honduras National Police in Tegucigalpa, Honduras February 15, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
(Picture: EPA)

In the early hours of Tuesday, Hernandez posted a message on Twitter saying he had informed the police that he was ‘ready to collaborate.’

Washington’s request for extradition was in stark contrast to a period when the U.S. government saw Hernandez as a vital ally in volatile Central America during his eight years in power.

Last year, a U.S. judge sentenced Hernandez’s brother to life in prison plus 30 years for drug trafficking, and the former president was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in another drug trafficking case in New York.

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