Tegucigalpa: Former President of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernandez has been extradited to the US, where he will face charges of drug trafficking.
On Thursday, Hernandez, who had been in custody since his arrest on February 15, was transferred by helicopter from the Los Cobras police headquarters on the outskirts of the Honduran capital to the Hernan Acosta Mejia airbase in Tegucigalpa, where agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) were waiting for him, reports Xinhua news agency.
The 53-year-old’s transfer was accompanied by a strong police ground and air operation.
Honduran Judge Edwin Francisco Ortez granted the extradition request on March 16, after evaluating evidence presented by the Court of the Southern District of New York and Hernandez’s lawyers.
Hernandez faces charges of “conspiracy to import a controlled substance into the US”; manufacturing and distributing a controlled substance with the intent and knowledge that substance would be illegally imported into the US; and with the intent to distribute a controlled substance aboard an aircraft registered on American soil.
He is also charged with weapons violations.
DEA head Anne Milgram called Hernandez “a central figure in one of the largest and most violent cocaine trafficking conspiracies in the world”.
Hernandez’s family said on Wednesday night a team of lawyers was hired in the US to defend the former President, who was elected in 2014.
In a video posted on his wife’s Twitter account, the former leader denied the allegations, saying: “I am innocent. I have been subjected to an unfair trial.”
Since 2014, Honduras has extradited to the US some 32 people linked to drug trafficking.