French court rejects Noriega jail appeal

28th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

A French court Friday rejected former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega's appeal against being kept in jail while he awaits trial next month.

Noriega had appealed against a May 12 ruling which kept him behind bars in Paris, arguing that he was too well-known to pose a flight risk, but an appeals court on Friday turned him down.

One of his lawyers, Yves Leberquier, said he would now turn to the country's highest appeal court.

Noriega appeared in court on Friday in a dark suit and wearing the medal of a Commander of the Legion of Honour, a top distinction which he was awarded in 1987 by France under its then-president Francois Mitterrand.

The former military leader, who ruled Panama from 1981 to 1989, was extradited to France from the United States on April 27 this year to face charges of laundering drug money.

He is accused of laundering 2.3 million euros (three million dollars) in Colombian drug money in France. He maintains the money was from his brother's inheritance, his wife and from CIA payments he received while in power.

Noriega, who suffers from partial paralysis and high blood pressure, is in jail at La Sante prison in Paris.

His lawyers had complained of the conditions and said he should be treated as a prisoner of war as he was a general who was captured by US forces during an invasion of his country in 1989.

The May 12 ruling classed him a flight risk and said his lawyers had failed to convince them that conditions at the Paris jail were inhumane.

The court in that ruling said his trial would begin on June 28 and last three days.

© 2010 AFP

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