France gets Noriega extradition request from Panama

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France on Friday received a formal request from Panama to extradite former dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega so that he can face human rights violations charges, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Bernard Valero "confirmed that the foreign ministry had today received the extradition request," and that this had been passed on to judicial authorities.

Valero however underscored that Noriega could not be extradited "until the French legal system was satisfied, as legal proceedings against him are underway."

The request follows Noriega's extradition in April to France from the United States, after spending nearly two decades US prisons for drug-trafficking, racketeering and money laundering convictions.

Noriega, 76, has three convictions for human rights violations in Panama, each carrying a 20-year prison sentence.

The Panamanian strongman ruled the country from 1981 to 1989, when then-US president George H.W. Bush sent troops into Panama and toppled his regime.

Noriega served his time in a Miami prison until being was sent last April to France to face money-laundering charges.

He 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.

The trial is expected to take place over three days at the end of June.

© 2010 AFP

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