Honduras ex-first lady ordered released from prison

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — A Honduran court ordered the immediate release Thursday of former first lady Rosa Elena Bonilla de Lobo, whose 58-year corruption sentence and conviction was tossed out earlier this year.

Bonilla will not be allowed to leave the country or have contact with others involved in the case. She is awaiting a new trial.

The court also ordered the release of her personal secretary Saul Fernando Escobar whose conviction had also been annulled, but who remained in prison.

Bonilla has been jailed since 2018. In September 2019, she was sentenced to 58 years in prison for fraud and embezzlement. The prior month she was convicted of embezzling about $600,000 in government money between 2010 and 2014, when her husband Porfirio Lobo was president.

The case was originally brought forward by the Organization of American States’ anti-corruption mission, which began its mandate in the country in 2016 after large street protests against graft. That mission was not renewed earlier this year by President Juan Orlando Hernández.

In March, Honduras’ Supreme Court ordered a new trial due to procedural problems in the original one.

Thursday’s hearing came at the request of Bonilla’s defense team, which sought a review of her custody in light of her conviction being annulled.

Melvin Duarte, spokesman for the judiciary, said Bonilla’s defense argued she could not be held for more than two years. Prosecutors could have requested a six-month extension, but did not.

A new trial date has not been set.

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