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French Judge Jails Noriega Ahead of Money Laundering Trial

VOA News 27 April 2010

A French judge has ordered former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega jailed in Paris while awaiting trial on money laundering charges.

Earlier Tuesday, lawyers for Noriega, who was extradited from the United States Monday, had called for his immediate release, arguing he was immune from prosecution as a former head of state.

The 76-year-old general, who ruled Panama from 1981 to 1989, arrived in Paris early Tuesday on a flight from Miami, Florida where he served a 17-year sentence for drug-trafficking and other charges.

In the French case, authorities claim he laundered about $7 million in drug profits in the 1980s by purchasing luxury apartments in Paris. He has already been convicted in absentia on those charges, but he is entitled to a new trial under French law.

In this Jan 1990, U.S. Marshalls file photo, deposed Panamanian Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega is seen at an undisclosed location
AP
In this Jan 1990, U.S. Marshalls file photo, deposed Panamanian Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega is seen at an undisclosed location

Noriega surrendered to U.S. troops in 1990, shortly after the U.S. invasion of Panama.

His attorneys argued in the 1990s that he was a prisoner of war under the Geneva Conventions, and therefore should be allowed to return home to Panama. A U.S. federal appeals court rejected the argument, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case.

Panama's foreign minister, Juan Carlos Varela, says his government respects the decision by the U.S. to send Noriega to France. But he says Panama will continue to use all legal and diplomatic means to bring the former dictator back to serve the sentences handed down by the courts there.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.



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