Honduran ex-president Hernandez pleads not guilty in US, denounces treatment

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NEW YORK, May 10 (Reuters) – Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, with chains around his ankles, pleaded not guilty to U.S. drug and weapons charges in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday while his lawyer complained about the “prisoner of war” conditions in prison. .

US prosecutors have accused Hernandez, a former US ally, of receiving millions of dollars from drug traffickers in exchange for protection from arrest while ruling Honduras from 2014 to January this year. Hernandez used the money to enrich himself and fund his political campaigns, prosecutors said.

Hernandez, extradited from the Central American country last month, pleaded not guilty to three counts – including conspiracy to import cocaine and possession of weapons – during an arraignment before the judge of U.S. District Kevin Castel. Read more

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The former president entered the courtroom wearing a blue T-shirt with chains around his ankles and spoke briefly through a Spanish interpreter to say he was not guilty.

Hernandez has in the past denied those allegations, portraying himself as a staunch opponent of drug cartels and accusing traffickers of smearing him for revenge and lightening their sentences. Read more

During the hearing, his attorney Raymond Colon said Hernandez was being held in solitary confinement at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center and was not allowed to call his family.

Colon said he was denied access to visit Hernandez on several occasions, although he went once and his assistants left.

“He’s being treated like a prisoner of war,” Colon said. “We are not asking that he receive special treatment because he is a former head of state, but these conditions are psychologically debilitating.”

The US Bureau of Prisons, which operates the detention center, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Castel ordered prosecutors to discuss Hernandez’s detention conditions with officials at the Metropolitan Detention Center and report back to him. He set Hernandez’s next court date for September 28 and said the trial could begin on January 17, 2023.

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Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Will Dunham

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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