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French prosecutors seek 10-year sentence for Panama's Noriega

Video by Florence VILLEMINOT

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-06-30

French prosecutors demanded Wednesday that former Panama dictator Manuel Noriega serve the maximum 10-year jail sentence over charges of laundering drug profits through France. A verdict is expected as early as next month.

AP - Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega should be jailed for 10 years for laundering millions of dollars in drug money through the French banks, a French prosecutor said Wednesday, as defense lawyers dismissed the accusations as a political plot.

In the closing arguments of the three-day trial, prosecutor Michel Maes insisted money passing through the general’s French accounts during the late 1980s were kickbacks from the powerful Medellin cocaine cartel.

France 24's Christopher Moore reports on the Noriega trial

Noriega spent 20 years in U.S. custody for drug trafficking and was extradited to France in April. A French court had convicted the ex-dictator on the money laundering charges in absentia in 1999, but he was granted a retrial.

Yves Leberquier, one of Noriega’s lawyers, branded the proceedings a “political case” and not a judicial one, and asked the judges to consider the political context that pitted Noriega against the United States ahead of the 1989 U.S. invasion of his country.

Leberquier questioned the impartiality of Noriega’s drug trafficking trial in the U.S. and said the French proceedings were “the continuation of this grand masquerade.”
Leberquier called the persecutor’s request for Noriega to be sentenced to 10 years “a life sentence, in reality.” The 76-year-old former general’s age and feeble health mean he would certainly die behind bars if convicted, Leberquier said.

In testimony Tuesday, Noriega insisted he was the victim of a U.S.-orchestrated “conspiracy.” In a monologue lasting more than an hour, Noriega explained his long and friendly dealings with the U.S. _ including the CIA _ and blamed his legal woes on his falling out with the Americans.

Noriega had been considered a valued CIA asset for years before he joined forces with drug traffickers and was implicated in the death of a political opponent.
The French trial proceedings wrap up Wednesday. A verdict in the case is expected in several weeks or months.

Date created : 2010-06-30


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