Manuel Noriega extradited to French court after 20 years in US custody
Today, former US ally and Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega appeared in a Paris court on charges of money laundering. He was extradited to France on Monday after two decades in a Miami jail.
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During his 1992 US trial, the US Army and CIA said it had given Noriega approximately $320,000, though Noriega said "the actual figure approached $10,000,000." He was sentenced to 40 years in prison, which was shortened to 30 years, which was then cut off at 17 years for good behavior in 2007.Skip to next paragraph
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Since then, however, the US has detained him in prison pending France’s extradition request.
No double jeopardy
Noriega was convicted in the US on charges of cocaine trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering, he is now charged for separate money laundering in France.
As such, says Hurst Hannum, a professor of international law at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the new charges appear unique and do not qualify as double jeopardy. And while Noriega's lawyers have said they will challenge the charges based on the French statute of limitations, Professor Hannum says that charges of money laundering – when serious enough – do not fall inside a specific time frame and can still be tried.
Perhaps more importantly is that, after all these years, Panamanians should finally feel a sense of closure.
"Is it really worth [another trial] at this stage?" says Hannum. "The ones who can answer that question are not so much the French but the Panamanians."
Panamanians may well be pleased to see Noriega back in the dock, says Hannum, considering the atrocities he commited.
"I think that many leaders these days probably receive credit for standing up to the US or the local regional power, and Noriega did that, but I don’t recall at the time he was arrested that there were any demonstrations for his release," says Hannum.
However, when Noriega's jail sentence ended in 2007, many Panamanians said they wanted him home and the chapter closed forever.
"He is a Panamanian; he should come back and face what he did here. If he goes to France, when he is ready to be released there, it will all start over again," Roberto Hazlewood, a lifelong resident of El Chorrillo, the neighborhood that bore the brunt of the 1989 invasion, told The Christian Science Monitor in 2007.
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