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Manuel Noriega extradited to France

Extradited former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was heading to France on Tuesday where he is expected to stand trial on money laundering charges.

The former strongman, who had been held in a prison just outside Miami, Florida, was placed on an overnight Air France flight to Paris, according to a US Justice Department official.

Yves Leberquier, one of Noriega's lawyers, said he would be turned over to French prosecutors and taken before a judge who will determine whether he should remain in custody pending further action.

Mr Leberquier said Noriega's legal team would push for that hearing to be open "so that the defence can be totally transparent".

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton signed a surrender warrant for Noriega on Monday after a judge in Miami last month lifted a stay blocking the extradition, state department spokesman Mark Toner said.

He said Mrs Clinton signed the warrant because all court challenges to his extradition were resolved.

Noriega was ousted as Panama's leader and put on trial following a 1989 US military invasion ordered by President George Bush senior. Noriega was brought to Miami and convicted of drug racketeering and related charges in 1992.

France requested his extradition shortly before his US drug trafficking sentence ended on September 9 2007.

France says Noriega laundered £2 million in drug proceeds by purchasing luxury apartments in Paris. Noriega was convicted in absentia, but France agreed to give him a new trial if he was extradited. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Noriega was declared a PoW after his 1992 drug conviction by a Miami federal judge, but federal judges and the US Supreme Court rejected his claims that the Geneva Conventions treaties regarding prisoners of war required him to be returned to Panama.


From Belfast Telegraph