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article imageNew VIP home in Paris for former Panamanian dictator

By Igor I. Solar     Apr 27, 2010 in Crime
Former Panamanian General Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno was sent to Le Santé prison today by order of a French judge, hours after being extradited to France from the United States.
U.S. Secretary of Estate Hillary Clinton signed a surrender warrant on Monday that allowed Mr. Noriega’s extradition to France after completing a 17 year prison term in Miami convicted on eight counts of drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering. The US favored France over Panama as the next destination of the former Panamanian strongman.
From the late 1950s until shortly before his capture in 1990, Noriega had been a “valuable” asset to the CIA. However, his involvement with the Colombian Medellin drug cartel, arms dealings with the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua and some incidents involving US military personnel in Panama City, disgraced him with his American employer. The USA invaded Panama in December 1989 and Noriega was captured January 3, 1990 at the Vatican Embassy in Panama City, where he had sought refuge following the US invasion.
In the US, Noriega was initially sentenced to 40 year in prison, later shortened to 30 years, but he was supposed to be released after 17 years for good behavior. His prison term ended on September 9, 2007, however he was held in U.S. custody pending extradition to either Panama, where he is wanted for murder charges, or France that requested his extradition following a sentence in absentia in 1999 for money laundering through purchases of expensive real state in Paris.
Before and during the hearing in Paris, the former dictator claimed to be a prisoner of war and demanded his right to be repatriated to Panama. Additionally, he invoked his right to immunity because of his status as former head of state.
At the audience in Paris, Noriega, who is 76 years-old, and appeared physically diminished, was allowed by the judge to sit because of his poor health, while he made a brief statement in Spanish calling the judge’s decision a “criminal action that violates my personal rights”.
Le Santé Prison is one of the three main prisons in Paris and has both VIP and high-security sections. Another conspicuous Le Santé resident is Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (a.k.a Carlos de Jackal) a Venezuelan terrorist and criminal whom president Hugo Chávez of Venezuela has referred to as "a friend" and “an important revolutionary fighter”.
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