Former Honduran president pleads not guilty to federal drug and firearms charges

The indictment in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York charges Hernández with conspiracy to import cocaine, possession of machine guns and destructive devices, and conspiracy to possess machine guns and destructive devices.

“As charged in the indictment, Hernández abused his position as president of Honduras from 2014 to 2022 to operate the country as a narco-state,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in April.

About a month before his arrest, U.S. federal prosecutors claimed that Hernández helped a suspected drug trafficker deliver thousands of pounds of cocaine to the United States in exchange for large bribes. His administration denied the allegation.

On Tuesday, Hernández entered the New York City courtroom dressed in navy blue prison attire and nodded to those in attendance, including reporters and members of the public. As he walked out, several audience members shouted “murderer”, “time to repent JOH” and “rat” at him.

Hernández listened through an interpreter. When asked how he would plead, he replied in Spanish “not guilty, your honor”.

The former Honduran leader left office in January, after serving as president for eight years.

At the time of his extradition, the US Department of Justice also unsealed an indictment alleging Hernández engaged in a conspiracy to protect and profit from cocaine couriers from Central and South America. to the United States.

Hernández’s brother, Tony Hernández, is currently serving a life sentence in a US federal prison for drug trafficking.

According to court documents in that case, US authorities believe Hernández was a co-conspirator in the operation, funneling drug money to help fund his presidential campaigns. Hernández has repeatedly denied these allegations.

The next hearing for Hernández is scheduled for September 28. Castel said he hopes to assemble a jury early next year and set a tentative date of January 17, 2023 for the start of the trial.

CNN’s Karol Suarez, Hannah Rabinowitz, Bertha Ramos, Elvin Sandoval and Sahar Akbarzai contributed reporting.

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