Paris court delays decision on Noriega appeal

7th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

A French court on Friday delayed until May 21 ruling on the appeal from former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega for his release from a Paris jail pending trial, one of his lawyers said.

The court accepted the demand by Noriega's lawyers for a document from July 2007 detailing French guarantees made to the United States and the former dictator, to be included in the case materials.

Without this important document on the conditions of eventual detention of Noriega in France, the United States would never have accepted to extradite him, Olivier Metzner said, the ex-strongman's lawyer.

Lawyers are calling on France to recognise Noriega's status as a prisoner of war, granted to him by the United States.

The 76-year-old general, who ruled Panama from 1981 to 1989, was extradited to France from the United States on April 27 to face charges of laundering drug money.

Noriega is being held at La Sante prison in southern Paris and a hearing is scheduled next week to set the date for his trial. French judicial officials have said the trial is likely to be held from June 28 to 30.

The ex-ruler was convicted in absentia in France in 1999 for laundering drug profits and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Under French law, defendants tried in absentia are entitled to a new trial.

Noriega is accused of laundering 2.3 million euros (three million dollars) in drug money from the Medellin cartel of Colombian cocaine traffickers through French banks and the purchase of luxury apartments in Paris.

Noriega has denied the charges and maintains the money was from his brother's inheritance.

© 2010 AFP

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