The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, clearing the way on Monday for him to be extradited to France, where he is wanted for money laundering.
AFP - The US Supreme Court Monday refused to take up an appeal from Panamanian former dictator Manuel Noriega asking it to block his extradition to France where he is wanted on money laundering charges.
In July, Noriega, 75, filed a petition with the US Supreme Court to block his extradition to France, where he has been sentenced in his absence to 10 years in jail.
The former army general held sway in Panama from 1984 until he surrendered on January 3, 1990 to US troops who had invaded the country three weeks earlier.
Noriega completed a 17-year US prison term on drug charges in 2008, but has remained in US custody in a Florida prison pending the appeal against extradition.
Federal judges have given the green light for Noriega to be extradited to France, and have refused his request to return to Panama. An appeals court subsequently upheld the extradition order.
Noriega's lawyer Julio Berros told AFP in Panama City that the US high court's ruling was "a political, not a judicial decision," and urged Washington to demand that France respect Noriega's "prisoner of war status."
Otherwise, he added, Noriega "should be sent to Panama" -- where he is charged with kidnapping and murdering opposition members.
The United States granted Noriega prisoner of war status when he was apprehended. His lawyers argued before the Supreme Court that as a prisoner of war, Noriega should be returned to Panama, not France. They lost.
Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli was indifferent as to Noriega's final destination: "It doesn't matter where they extradite him, either France or Panama; he must serve his sentence."
While the Supreme Court deliberated on his case, Noriega wrote French President Nicolas Sarkozy asking for his pardon.
In his September letter sent through his lawyer, Noriega argued that the French charges against him were identical to the ones he was convicted for in the United States.
The answer from Paris was unambiguous: "You can't pardon somebody who hasn't been convicted," said a French Justice Ministry spokesman.
Date created : 2010-01-26