efe-epaMiami

Panamanian ex-President Ricardo Martinelli's defense team informed a court here Wednesday of its plans to appeal a ruling that had cleared the way for him to be extradited from the United States to his homeland, one of his lawyers told EFE Wednesday.

Martinelli's legal representative in Panama, Sidney Sitton, said the ex-president's defense team now has 60 days to appeal Judge Marcia G. Cooke's ruling to the Atlanta-based US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

US prosecutors, who are representing the Panamanian government in this case, have that same amount of time to submit their arguments.

The notice of appeal temporarily halts the extradition process; the US State Department will make the final decision on whether or not Martinelli is sent back to Panama.

Cooke, who in January upheld a previous US federal judge's ruling giving the go-ahead for Panama's extradition request, on Tuesday had ordered Martinelli released from jail on $1 million bail.

She ruled that the ex-president must remain confined to his Miami residence, surrender his passport and other travel documents and report to court authorities once a week.

But on Wednesday Cooke reversed that decision, granting a motion from prosecutors who had moved to block his release on the grounds he was a flight risk.

Martinelli, who governed Panama from 2009 to 2014, is wanted in his homeland in a case involving alleged spying on scores of opposition figures, as well as business leaders and journalists.

The ex-president, who was detained in Miami on June 12, 2017, became the first former Panamanian head of state to be arrested abroad on an extradition request.

Martinelli also faces charges of illicit enrichment.

The ex-president says he is being politically persecuted by Panama's current head of state, Juan Carlos Varela, who had previously served as Martinelli's vice president.

Martinelli, a 66-year-old business mogul, left Panama on Jan. 28, 2015, when that nation's Supreme Court agreed to hear the first of several corruption cases against him.