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Noriega Returned to Panama, Still Jailed

Former Panama General Manuel Noriega served 17 years in prison in the U.S. for drugs and 2 years in France for money laundering. This weekend, at his request, he was returned to Panama to begin serving three 20 year sentences. He's now 77 and in a wheelchair.

Noriega was toppled in a US invasion of Panama in 1989. He was convicted in absentia in three homicide cases involving 11 murders, including the 1985 beheading of a doctor who threatened to reveal Noriega’s drug ties. He was also responsible for the executions of nine officers who staged a failed coup.

Here are some photos of Noriega's arrest by U.S. DEA agents in Panama. The lead take-down agent, DEA group supervisor, Rene DelaCova, pleaded guilty 1n 1994 to stealing $700,000 from drug traffickers in an unrelated case. He got a 3 year sentence. [More...]

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Noriega, Now Old and Weak, Testifies in France

Manuel Noriega's French money laundering trial opened today. He took the stand, and appeared feeble and weak. He's 76, and recently finished serving 17 years of a 20 year prison sentence in the U.S..

Noriega was charged in France in 1999 with illegally laundering cocaine profits. He was tried in absentia and sentenced to 10 years. This is a re-trial. He was extradited to France in April from the U.S.

Noriega, the Panamanian ruler from 1981 to 1989, has insisted that the money came from his brother's inheritance, his wife's personal fortune and payments by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The CIA considered him a valuable asset for years before he joined forces with drug traffickers and was implicated in the death of a political opponent.

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General Noriega Can Be Extradited to France

Bad news today for General Manual Noriega. The Supreme Court denied cert in his appeal of the 11th Circuit decision allowing France to extradite him to face trial on money laundering and drug charges there. (He was convicted in absentia but France has ordered a new trial.)

Scalia and Thomas would have granted cert. Noriega finished his 20 year drug sentence in 2007. He is the only prisoner in the U.S. classified as a "prisoner of war."

"Providing that guidance in this case would allow us to say what the law is without the unnecessary delay and other complications that could burden a decision on these questions in Guantanamo or other detainee litigation arising out of the conflict with al-Qaida," Thomas said in his dissent.

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