Honduran ex-president reportedly asked Israel to help prevent his extradition to US

Newly arrested Hernandez told officials in Israeli government that their predecessors vowed to act on his behalf in exchange for him moving embassy to Jerusalem, Channel 12 reports

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (R) and then-Honduras president Juan Orlando Hernández in the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, June 24, 2021. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (R) and then-Honduras president Juan Orlando Hernández in the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, June 24, 2021. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Former Honduras president Juan Orlando Hernández reportedly claimed to have received assurances from Israel that it would act on his behalf in the event that the US would seek his arrest on drug and weapons trafficking charges.

Hernandez was arrested at his home on Tuesday by Honduran authorities, who accepted an extradition request submitted by the US. Washington alleges that Hernández was a co-conspirator during his brother’s 2019 drug trafficking trial and that his political rise was fueled by drug profits. The arrest came just three weeks after Hernandez completed his term as president.

When Hernandez arrived in Israel last June to participate in a ceremony opening his country’s new embassy in Jerusalem, he told officials in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government that their predecessors had promised to do everything they could to prevent his extradition in exchange for him moving the diplomatic mission from Tel Aviv, Channel 12 reported on Wednesday.

Hernandez brought up the same purported deal in November when Israeli minister Eli Avidar visited Honduras to participate in the opening of a new Israeli embassy in Tegucigalpa, the network said.

Responding to the report, an associate of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Channel 12 that no request to prevent Hernandez’s extradition had ever been raised by the Hondurans.

Tuesday’s arrest of Hernández and the images that followed — a leader shackled and paraded before the cameras like a common criminal — were a stunning reversal for a man who for years seemed impervious to growing allegations of corruption.

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, center in chains, is shown to the press at the Police Headquarters in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Elmer Martinez)

While president from 2014 until January, he had the support of US officials waging the war on drugs and some diplomats who did not see a better option. But less than a month out of office, his utility exhausted, the US government moved for his extradition and the chance to make him an example in a region wracked by corruption.

Hernández arrived at the Supreme Court of Justice on Wednesday morning for his initial court appearance. About 150 supporters from his National Party awaited him, chanting “You’re not alone!”

Benjamin Netanyahu, third right, and Juan Orlando Hernandez, third left, meeting in Brasilia, Brazil, on January 1, 2019. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Hours later, court spokesman Melvin Duarte said the judge had denied Hernández’s petition for house arrest and ruled that the former president would remain in detention at the base of a National Police special forces unit pending the outcome of the extradition process.

The judge scheduled a court session for March 16 to hear evidence supporting the US charges.

AP contributed to this report.

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