France gives Panama's Noriega seven-year jail

Former Panamanian military leader Noriega was sentenced to seven years' jail in France.

France gives Panama's Noriega seven-year jail

 

Former Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega was sentenced to seven years' jail in France on Wednesday for laundering millions of euros into French bank accounts and properties in the 1980s.

The 76-year-old former general arrived in April to be retried in a Paris court after being extradited from the United States.

He was convicted in France in absentia in 1999 of laundering money from Colombian drug cartels.

The Paris criminal court also ordered the confiscation of 2.3 million euros from the accounts and ordered 1 million euros to be paid in damages to Panama.

Born in the slums, Noriega muscled his way to the top of Panama's military in the early 1980s and maintained a firm grip on power until being ousted by U.S. forces in 1989.

The prison sentence is less than the 10 years originally sought by the prosecution. Under French law Noriega can apply for parole in mid-sentence, meaning he could be released in about a year.

Despite finishing his US prison sentence two years ago, Noriega remained in a Florida jail from where he was fighting extradition.

Panama also has an outstanding request for Noriega's extradition, after he was sentenced in absentia to 60 years in prison on charges of embezzlement, corruption and murdering opponents.

Juan Carlos Varela, Panama's foreign minister, said that Panama respects the US decision to extradite Noriega to France but will still try to get him back to Panama "to serve the sentences handed down by Panamanian courts".

Defence lawyers had argued that his extradition to France was unlawful and that as a prisoner of war -- a status granted to him by the United States -- he was not subject to the jurisdiction of French courts.

"We denounce this decision with political connotations which no doubt suits American authorities," Noriega's lawyer Olivier Metzner told reporters, adding no decision had been made on whether to appeal.

If returned to his home country, Noriega faces a maximum 20-year prison sentence for various crimes, although given his age he would serve his sentence under house arrest.
 

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 07 Temmuz 2010, 17:30
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