Panama ex-President Martinelli chosen as RM candidate for elections

Panama's former president Ricardo Martinelli is escorted by police officers and supporters while leaving a courthouse after being declared not guilty of spying charges in Panama City
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By Elida Moreno

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Panama's former President Ricardo Martinelli was on Sunday chosen as the presidential candidate for his party Realizando Metas (RM) in next year's elections.

Martinelli, who was in office from 2009 to 2014, is accused of laundering public funds through the purchase of a news outlet during his term.

Martinelli - along with his sons - is also charged in Panama for his alleged involvement in laundering millions of dollars in bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

The former president, 71, denies the charges and claims he is being politically targeted.

"The only way to get me out of the presidential race is by impeachment ... they're going to have to kill me," Martinelli said.

The Untied States has barred Martinelli from entering the North American country, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accusing him of accepting bribes.

(Reporting by Elida Moreno; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)