Nicaragua grants political asylum to former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli

Nicaragua said Wednesday it had granted political asylum to former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli days after Panama’s top court rejected an appeal to annul his prison sentence in a money laundering case.

According to a diplomatic note that Nicaragua’s government sent to Panama’s foreign ministry, Martinelli requested asylum because he “considered himself persecuted for political reasons and thinks that his life, physical integrity and safety are at imminent risk.”

Last July, Martinelli was sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of more than $19.2 million after he was declared guilty, along with four other people, of money laundering in a case known as “New Business.”

The case is related to a publishing group that, according to the public ministry, was purchased with funds that came from state contracts that were handled irregularly. Martinelli declared in court that he was innocent and a victim of political persecution.

Despite the conviction, the former president did not go to jail and was even allowed to register as a presidential candidate in the current race.

Last week, Panama’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal in the “New Business” case, which left Martinelli’s prior conviction in place and disqualified him from running as a presidential candidate.

This is a developing story and will be updated

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