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Honduras ex-president faces charges in US court

NEW YORK (AP) – Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández made a virtual appearance on Friday in federal court in New York to face drug trafficking and weapons charges after he was arrested in Honduras and extradited overnight to the United States (US).

Hernández, who has denied any wrongdoing, was not required to enter a plea at the 12-minute initial hearing before Magistrate Judge Stewart D Aaron in Manhattan. A plea will occur at his next hearing on May 10 before Judge P Kevin Castel.

His lawyer Raymond Colon said he agreed “at least for the moment” to let Hernández remain behind bars rather than attempt to convince a judge to set bail. During Friday’s hearing, a relaxed-looking Hernández sat in a chair as he listened to the judge and lawyers through a black corded phone he held to his ear. As Aaron read him his rights, Hernández nodded.

The magistrate judge then read a brief description of the charges he faced, telling him he was alleged to have received millions of dollars between 2004 and 2022 for his role in a drug trade that brought hundreds of thousands of kilogrammes of drugs to the US.

Hernández, who served as president of the Central American nation from 2014 through 2022, was charged in court documents with participating in a drug trafficking conspiracy, possession of machine guns and destructive devices and conspiracy to possess machine guns and destructive devices.

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez. PHOTO: AP