Panama: US won't block extradition of Noriega

20th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Panama's foreign ministry said Sunday the United States will not stand in the way if France extradites Panamanian ex-dictator Manuel Noriega to face charges in his home country.

Noriega, 77, is in a French prison serving a seven-year sentence on charges of laundering drug money during the 1980s.

That stint began last year when the United States extradited him after he served 20 years behind bars in Miami for drug trafficking. Panama has maintained its extradition request for Paris to hand him over to face trial in his home country for human rights violations linked to the disappearance of opponents under his 1983-1989 military rule.

But under existing treaties, France would need US approval to extradite Noriega to his home country if the sentence for which he was sent to France has not been fully served.

"The government of the United States has consented to French authorities for the extradition of Manuel Antonio Noriega to the Republic of Panama," the foreign ministry of Panama said in a statement.

The decision was relayed to Panamanian authorities by a June 16 diplomatic note from the US embassy in Panama City, after consent to an extradition was given by Washington the previous month, according to the statement.

Noriega has three convictions for human rights violations in Panama, each carrying a 20-year prison sentence.

He was convicted last July for laundering the equivalent of 2.3 million euros (then $2.8 million) from the Medellin drug cartel through French banks.

The drug money transited through the now-defunct Bank of Credit and Commerce International in the late 1980s and was used by Noriega's wife and a shell company to buy three luxury apartments in Paris.

The French court ordered the money seized last year, in a judgment Noriega's lawyer slammed as "extremely severe."

© 2011 AFP

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