Ex-Panamanian dictator to be extradited in weeks

AP News
Posted: Dec 01, 2011 4:40 PM
Ex-Panamanian dictator to be extradited in weeks

Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega will be extradited to his homeland in the next few weeks, the French Justice Ministry said Thursday.

France and Panama have been working out the details of the extradition, Justice Ministry spokesman Bruno Badre told The Associated Press by telephone. A French court ruled on Nov. 23 that Noriega can be handed over to serve time for past crimes, more than 20 years after being ousted and arrested in a U.S. invasion.

Badre said "the judicial conditions have now been filled" for extradition and "this will occur in the next few weeks."

The elderly former strongman has been behind bars in Florida, on drug charges, and in France, for money laundering. Panama wants Noriega returned to serve prison terms handed down after he was convicted in absentia for embezzlement, corruption and murder.

The court decision came after months of legal procedures. Friends and foes alike feared that Noriega might die in a French prison _ notably Panamanians who fought against human rights abuses during his 1983-1989 regime.

Noriega, a one-time CIA asset, turned into an embarrassment for the U.S. after he sidled up to Colombia's Medellin drug cartel and turned to crime.

In Panama, he is accused of murdering opponents including Moises Giroldi, a military commander who led a failed rebellion two months before the U.S. invasion, and Hugo Spadafora, whose decapitated body was found on the border with Costa Rica in 1985.