Panama's former dictator Manuel Noriega, being held in a Paris prison awaiting a retrial in France on charges of money laundering, is in a "very weak" physical condition, one of his lawyers said on Thursday.
Noriega, 76, muscled his way from the slums of Panama City to reach the top of the country's military before being overthrown in a 1989 American invasion after U.S. authorities had indicted him for drug trafficking.
He was extradited to France on Tuesday from the United States after serving a 17-year sentence there.
"I saw him this morning," lawyer Olivier Metzner told Reuters Television. "Yet again, I found a man who is very weak, who has a lot of problems going down the stairs leading to the lawyers' meeting room, and has lots of problems getting back up the stairs again."
The former self-declared "Maximum Leader" of Panama was tried and convicted in a Miami court in 1992 of drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering. He said he was innocent and had helped U.S. intelligence and anti-drug efforts.
He was also found guilty in France and convicted in his absence in 1999 of money laundering. He faces a new trial in the next two months which could lead to a 10-year sentence.
His lawyers are demanding the case be dropped and their client freed, but a judge said Noriega could not be trusted to stay in France if he was freed on bail.
Noriega's lawyers argue that as a prisoner of war -- a status granted to him by the United States -- and former head of state, the French courts have no jurisdiction to try him.
Panama's ambassador to France Henry Faarup said this week his country would seek Noriega's extradition to Panama, where he could face 20 years imprisonment for various crimes.
Metzner said he would be happy to comply with a request for Noriega to be extradited to Panama, if one was made.
"We are ready to hand him over as soon as tomorrow, or even as soon as this evening," he told Reuters.
ReutersLast Mod: 29 Nisan 2010, 21:09