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Friday, Feb. 23
The Indiana Daily Student

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Panama’s ex-dictator, Manuel Noriega, extradited to France

Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega faced money-laundering charges in a French courtroom Tuesday after being extradited from the United States.

French authorities claim Noriega, who was ousted in a U.S. invasion in 1989, had laundered some $7 million in drug profits by purchasing luxury apartments with his wife in Paris. Noriega was convicted “in absentia,” but France agreed to give him a new trial if he was extradited.

Noriega could face another 10 years in prison if convicted in France. French Justice Ministry spokesman Guillaume Didier has said Noriega could go on trial within two months.

Noriega’s French lawyers are seeking his immediate release, saying his detention and transfer are unlawful.

Yves Leberquier, Noriega’s lawyer in France, said the former dictator is half-paralyzed since suffering from a mild stroke four years ago.

“The man appears to be very weak,” said Olivier Metzner, another of his French lawyers.

Leberquier argued that it was illegal to try a former head of state who should have immunity from prosecution.

Other legal objections are that Noriega is considered a prisoner of war, a status Leberquier said French jails aren’t ready to accommodate, and that the charges against him are no longer valid because the acts he is accused of happened too long ago, the lawyer said.

“We’re not here to eventually make a moral judgment, we’ve got legal rules that have to be applied and respected,” Leberquier told The Associated Press. “For justice to be served, the judiciary must acknowledge it is incompetent to put him on trial (in France).”

Noriega was ousted as Panama’s leader and put on trial following a 1989 U.S. military invasion ordered by then-President George H.W. Bush. He was brought to Miami and was convicted of drug racketeering and related charges in 1992.

He finished serving his term in federal prison outside Miami in 2007 but stayed in prison while France sought his extradition.

The “in-absentia” French conviction, obtained by The AP, said Noriega “knew that (the money) came directly or indirectly from drug trafficking.” It said he helped Colombia’s Medellin drug cartel by authorizing the transport of cocaine through Panama en route to the United States.

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