French court to hear Noriega appeal for release

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A French court on Friday will hear an appeal from former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega for his release from a Paris jail pending trial, one of his lawyers said.

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 justice sources 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.

He 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 inheri


© 2010 AFP

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