Panama to fight France for Noriega extradition
PANAMA CITY, July 18, 2007 (AFP) - Panama will fight with France over the extradition of former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega after he is released from a US jail in September, a senior government official said Wednesday. "France has put in a request for his extradition and prosecutors have filed it with (US) judges," Panama's Exterior Relations Minister Samuel Lewis told reporters confirming Paris' decision.
PANAMA CITY, July 18, 2007 (AFP) - Panama will fight with France over the extradition of former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega after he is released from a US jail in September, a senior government official said Wednesday.
"France has put in a request for his extradition and prosecutors have filed it with (US) judges," Panama's Exterior Relations Minister Samuel Lewis told reporters confirming Paris' decision.
"Panama will insist before US courts that Noriega be extradited to Panama and not to France," he added.
Arrested in his office in Panama by a US military operation in December 1989 and convicted in the United States on drug trafficking charges, Noriega is due to be released from a Florida jail in September for good behavior after serving only 15 years of a 40 year prison sentence.
US prosecutors on Tuesday filed a request to have Noriega extradited to France upon his release. In 1989 he was sentenced by France in absentia to 10 years in jail for money laundering.
Panama, however, filed its own extradition request in 1991 and renewed it these past three years, said Lewis, "to have Noriega serve out his term in Panama."
He was sentenced in absentia in Panama to 40 years in prison for his role in the disappearance and murder of opposition members during his 1983-1989 rule.
Julio Berrios, the Panamanian prosecutor who requested Noriega's extradition in 1991, said "France has no more rights than Panama over Noriega since he is protected by international law."
Meanwhile, Noriega's lawyer in Miami, Florida, where Noriega is jailed, said on Tuesday that he would vigorously fight France's extradition request.
"We're going to do everything humanly possible to prevent it from happening," attorney Anthony Rubino told AFP.
Rubino insists his client is a prisoner of war since he was captured during a military occupation of his country and that the Geneva Conventions dictate he must be repatriated immediately upon completion of his sentence.
"If France wants him extradited they should put the request to Panama," Rubino said, adding that Noriega wants to be sent back to Panama where he plans to appeal his conviction and settle back with his family and grandchildren.
Berrios also confirmed the former military dictator's desire to head for home despite the fact that Panama's charges against him "are worse than the money laundering charges in France."
Noriega, 69, ruled Panama from 1983 to 1989, when he was captured in an invasion ordered by then-president US President George H.W. Bush.
Noriega had worked with the CIA for years but eventually fell out of favor with Washington amid claims he was involved in narcotics trafficking.
Subject: French news