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Honduran ex-president willing to surrender after police surround home

Honduran police officers surround the house of ex-president Juan Orlando Hernandez after the U.S. requested his arrest and extradition, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras February 14, 2022. REUTERS/Fredy Rodriguez

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez said Tuesday he is ready to collaborate with national police, hours after authorities surrounded his house amid U.S. government requests that he be arrested and extradited to Washington.

Speculation had been swirling for months that the United States was planning to request Hernandez's extradition when he left office amid accusations that he colluded with drug traffickers. Leftist leader Xiomara Castro replaced him as president last month.

FILE PHOTO: Honduras' President Juan Orlando Hernandez presents his national statement as a part of the World Leaders' Summit at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 1, 2021. Andy Buchanan/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Honduras' Supreme Court - which will decide on the extradition request - is due to meet at 9:30 a.m. (1500 GMT) on Tuesday to name a judge to oversee the case, a judiciary spokesman said.

Hernandez had been holed up in his home, according to one of his lawyers, after about 100 police officers surrounded it late on Monday.

"The national police, through my proxies, have already received the message that I am ready to collaborate and voluntarily arrive with their accompaniment, at the moment the judge appointed by the honorable Supreme Court of Justice decides, in order to face this situation and defend myself," Hernandez said in a message shared on Twitter.

Honduran police officers surround the house of ex-president Juan Orlando Hernandez after the U.S. requested his arrest and extradition, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras February 14, 2022. REUTERS/Fredy Rodriguez

Just a few hours after leaving office, Hernandez joined the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), a six-country regional body which affords its members immunity from prosecution.

However, any immunity bestowed by Parlacen, which comprises elected officials as well as former presidents and vice-presidents, can be removed or suspended at the request of a member's home country.

A lawyer for Hernandez, Felix Avila, told a local TV channel that if a Supreme Court judge orders his client's arrest, the former president "has said that if he is allowed, he is willing to surrender voluntarily."

A senior Honduran official, speaking anonymously because they were not allowed to speak to media on the subject, told Reuters on Monday the United States "requested the provisional arrest of former president Juan Orlando Hernandez for extradition purposes".

Washington's request for extradition is a stark contrast to a period when the U.S. government saw Hernandez as a vital ally in the volatile Central America region during his eight years in power.

The United States had already placed Hernandez on a blacklist, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken this month said there were credible reports Hernandez "has engaged in significant corruption by committing or facilitating acts of corruption and narco-trafficking".

(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia, writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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