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Former Honduran president sentenced to 45 years in prison on drug trafficking charges

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez has been sentenced to 45 years in prison and given an $8 million fine by a US judge for drug trafficking offenses.

He has previously denied the charges against him and at his sentencing on Wednesday insisted that he is innocent and was “wrongly and unjustly accused.”

In March, a jury in New York found Hernandez guilty on three drug trafficking charges after a two-week trial in Manhattan federal court. He denied the charges.

He was extradited from Honduras after the US Department of Justice filed three drug-trafficking and firearms related charges against him in 2022.

Prosecutors had accused Hernández, 55, of conspiring with drug cartels during his tenure as they moved more than 400 tons of cocaine through Honduras toward the United States.

In exchange, prosecutors said, Hernández received millions of dollars in bribes that he used to fuel his rise in Honduran politics.

Hernández was president of Honduras from 2014 until 2022. During his years in office, he “protected and enriched the drug traffickers in his inner circle,” the Justice Department said, citing his use of executive power to support extraditions to the US of certain drug traffickers “who threatened his grip on power” while “promising drug traffickers who paid him and followed his instructions that they would remain in Honduras.”

Prosecutors also said that members of the conspiracy in which Hernández participated relied on the Honduran National Police to protect cocaine shipments as they moved through the country.

In a statement, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said Hernández “abused his position as president of Honduras to operate the country as a narco-state where violent drug traffickers were allowed to operate with virtual impunity, and the people of Honduras and the United States were forced to suffer the consequences.”

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