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File photo: Honduras' then President Juan Orlando Hernandez delivers a press conference at the presidential house in Tegucigalpa, on March 24, 2021.
File photo: Honduras’ then President Juan Orlando Hernandez delivers a press conference at the presidential house in Tegucigalpa, on March 24, 2021. © Orlando Sierra, AFP

A Honduran judge authorized on Wednesday the extradition of former president Juan Orlando Hernandez to the United States on drug-trafficking and firearms charges, a decision his defense said it will appeal.

The decision was announced on the Twitter account of the Central American country’s judicial authority.

Juez de Primera Instancia otorga la solicitud de Extradición que involucra a el Ex Presidente Hernández Alvarado. pic.twitter.com/SSdXBHs9ob

— Poder Judicial HN (@PJdeHonduras) March 17, 2022

“We are going to file an appeal to try to avoid extradition,” Felix Avila, a defense attorney for Hernandez, told journalists outside the court.

U.S. authorities charged that the right-wing former leader participated in a drug-trafficking scheme between 2004 and 2022. Hernandez, 53, is also accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes to protect drug traffickers from investigation and prosecution, and carrying, using, or aiding and abetting the use of weapons.

Hernandez, who was replaced as president in January by leftist Xiomara Castro after eight years in office, has denied any wrongdoing.

He has been in custody since mid-February when he was arrested after a dramatic stake-out that saw him holed up in his home surrounded by police. He emerged hours later, pledging to cooperate with authorities.

(REUTERS)