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Panama ex-president Martinelli faces up to 21 years in jail

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Panama City (AFP)

Panama's ex-president Ricardo Martinelli faces up to 21 years in jail for spying on political foes, reporters and business leaders while in power, prosecutors said Friday.

Martinelli created and directed "an organized state apparatus" for domestic espionage when in office from 2009-2014, said prosecutor Ricaurte Gonzalez.

The then-president targeted about 150 individuals with illegal communications tapping -- done with no court order, the prosecutor said.

Those critical of Martinelli seemed to have drawn his closest scrutiny, becoming targets for his taps, Gonzalez added.

Attorney Carlos Carrillo of Martinelli's legal team however insisted that it was impossible to link Martinelli himself with the offences of which he has been accused.

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