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Two decades after United States troops invaded Panama and arrested Manuel Noriega, the country’s dictator, he arrived in France on Tuesday to face trial on money laundering charges.

Mr. Noriega, who had been serving a 30-year sentence in a federal prison in Miami on drug charges, was put on an Air France flight for Paris on Monday after the State Department authorized his extradition, said one of his lawyers, John May. Mr. Noriega had lost a court battle seeking to be returned to Panama after completing a federal prison term.

In 1999, he was convicted in France in absentia of laundering more than $3 million in drug profits by buying luxury apartments there. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. France has agreed to hold a new trial.

Mr. Noriega was also convicted in Panama of ordering the murder of political opponents, as well as embezzlement and corruption.

Despite the more serious charges there, Mr. Noriega, who is in his seventies, fought to return to Panama. Older prisoners there are permitted to serve prison terms at home.

Convicted in federal court in Miami of turning Panama into a transshipment point for Colombian traffickers smuggling cocaine to the United States, Mr. Noriega was sentenced to 30 years in 1992.

In federal prison, he was a model prisoner. The judge who presided over his trial declared him a prisoner of war, which allowed him privileges in jail, including access to a telephone.

With time off for good behavior and other credits, he was scheduled to be released in September 2007. He remained in prison, though, as he fought extradition to France.

Mr. Noriega argued that as a prisoner of war, he should be returned to Panama. But in January, the Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal, clearing the way for his extradition.

The United States military invaded Panama on Dec. 20, 1989, to overthrow Mr. Noriega and bring him to the United States for trial. The Panamanian Defense Forces, which have since been disbanded, put up little resistance, and Mr. Noriega took refuge in the Vatican Embassy.

American troops surrounded the building and blasted heavy metal music to wear him down. He surrendered on Jan. 2, 1990, 10 days after he had entered the embassy, walking out to waiting soldiers who handcuffed him and put him on a plane to Miami, where he would spend the next two decades.

Elisabeth Malkin reported from Mexico City. Richard Berry contributed reporting from Paris, and Carmen Gentile from Miami.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/28/world/europe/28noriega.html?ref=world

Tag(s) : #Amérique du Nord