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Noriega behind bars pending French trial

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Noriega behind bars pending French trial


A French judge has ordered that the former dictator of Panama, Manuel Noriega, is to remain in custody until a new trial on charges of laundering drug money.

Noriega was extradited to France yesterday from the United States, after serving a 17-year prison sentence there for drug trafficking.

The 76-year old was convicted in absentia by France in 1999 of money laundering but will be retried in person.

In Paris Noriega’s lawyers argued that French courts cannot try him because he has diplomatic immunity.

“The court recognises the status of Manuel Noriega as a former head of state but does not take his immunity into account. That means France doesn’t have the right to judge him as long as it recognises he was the head of state of Panama,” said Olivier Metzner, Noriega’s defence counsel.

Noriega was first arrested in 1990 during the US invasion of Panama. His lawyers also argue this gives him prisoner of war status, which also puts him outside of French jurisdiction.

A French justice official said his new trial could take place within two months.

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