1:00PM BST 27 Apr 2010
Manuel Noriega, Panama’s former dictator, is expected to claim diplomatic immunity when he appears in a French court on money laundering charges after being extradited from the US.
Noriega, who was released after 20 years in jail in the US on drugs charges, appeared before prosecutors at Paris’ main courthouse on Tuesday morning. He arrived from Miami early Tuesday after losing a three-year battle in US courts against being sent to France.
He will later return to hear whether he will be jailed or freed under supervision pending future hearings. Noriega’s lawyers were expected to argue that as a former national president and a prisoner of war, France’s legal system has no jurisdiction to try him.
If the rule of law is applied there should not be a trial in France because of the judicial immunity of a former head of state,” said Yves Leberquier, Noriega’s French lawyer.
Instead, he wants to return to Panama, to appeal another in absentia conviction there for murder, embezzlement and corruption, for which he was sentenced to 60 years behind bars.
Panama’s foreign minister, Juan Carlos Varela, said that the United States, “made the sovereign decision to send him to France and we respect that decision”.
“That does not mean that Panama is not going to insist by legal and diplomatic means on having Noriega return to this country to serve the sentences handed down by Panamanian courts,” Mr Varela added.
Noriega had wanted to return directly to Panama after serving 17 years in jail in the US in 2007. Since then, he has been fighting in US courts for the extradition to France to be annulled. As an elderly prisoner in Panama, he would likely be allowed to serve his term at home.
A French judge sentenced the 72-year-old to 10 years in prison in 1999, after convicting him in absentia of spending £2 million of drug money to buy luxury apartments in Paris.
French authorities promised a retrial if Noriega was extradited.
However, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, signed a ‘surrender order’ on Monday, and Noriega was immediately put on an Air France from Miami to Paris.
The CIA recruited Noriega as a spy during the 1960s and he rose to become Panama’s intelligence chief and then head of its military, and thus the country’s de facto leader – by 1983.
While still on the CIA payroll, he fixed elections in 1984 and again in 1989, and was accused of violent suppression of opponents, including ordering the murder and decapitation of Hugo Spadafora, a vocal critic.
American forces invaded Panama in 1989 to overthrow him and bring him to trial after he was accused of allowing Colombian drug cartels to use his country as a trans-shipment point for cocaine heading to the US.
Noriega took refuge in the Vatican Embassy in Panama City, but US military â psy-ops’ troops blasted him for days with deafening heavy metal and pop music.
He surrendered early in 1990 and was taken into custody to be tried in Miami.
Federal judges there handed him a 40-year sentence for drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering, but the term later cut to 30 years and then reduced to 17 years for good behaviour.
Manuel Noriega was born on February 11th, 1935
2 + 11 +2+0+1+0 = 16 = his personal year (from February 11th, 2010 to February 10th, 2011) = Expect the unexpected. Anything can happen. Predictably unpredictable. Never shout never. All of a sudden. In a flash. In an instant. From out of nowhere. Bolt out of the blue. Shock to the system. A real eye opener. Rise so high, so far to fall. How the mighty have fallen.
16 year + 4 (April) = 20 = his personal month (from April 11th, 2010 to May 10th, 2010) = Conscience. Resolutions. Turning point. Judgement. Forgiveness. Atonement. Repentance. Penance. Contrition. Reparations. Making amends. Restitution. Pardon. Clemency. Reprieve. Appeals. Resolutions. Final decision. Final answer. Court. Plea. Bail. Trial. Deliberations. Verdict. Sentencing. Judges. Adjudicate. Preside. Referee. Pound. Gavel. Confession. Admission.
20 month + 27 (27th of the month on Tuesday April 27th, 2010) = 47 = his personal day = The future. Tomorrow. Famous. Name & fame. Notoriety. Name recognition. (Inter)nationally known. High profile. VIP. Well-known. Household name.