The French court plans to try former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega on Jun 28 on charges of laundering drug money. He was convicted in absentia in France in 1999 on the charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Under French law, defendants convicted in absentia are entitled to a new trial. The former military ruler of Panama from 1981 to 1989, when he was captured by a United States invading force, was imprisoned in a US jail until his extradition to France on 27 Apr.
During a May appeal against being kept in jail while awaiting trial, Noriega wore a Commander of the Legion of Honour awarded to him in 1987 by France, a reminder of a time when he was lionized by the French leadership under then-president Francois Mitterrand. He stands to be stripped of the honor if convicted. Noriega is accused of laundering 2.3 million euros (US $3 million) in Colombian drug money in France. He suffers from partial paralysis and high blood pressure, but his lawyers failed to convince the court that conditions at La Sante prison in Paris are inhumane. The Paris Correctional Court rejected his request for release while acknowledging his status of prisoner of war and a former head of state. (Written May 2010)
Date written/update: 2010-07-28