Panama will ask France to extradite ex-dictator Noriega

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Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said Wednesday that his country will ask France to extradite former dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega, where he faces human rights violations charges.

"Panama will present the extradition request in accordance with our laws, but it all depends on the French government," said Martinelli, in his first reaction to Noriega's extradition from the United States to France.

Noriega, 76, ruled Panama from 1981 to 1989, when then-US president George H.W. Bush sent troops into Panama and toppled his regime. He has been held in Miami prison after being convicted of drug trafficking charges until he was sent to France Monday to face money-laundering charges.

Noriega 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.

Panama's foreign ministry said Tuesday that it was the country's Supreme Court and the prosecutor's office -- and not the presidency -- that decide if an extradition request will be issued.

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

© 2010 AFP

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