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US Judge Delays Ruling on Noriega's Extradition


A U.S. judge has delayed a ruling until later this month on whether former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega should be extradited to France to face trial.

The judge, William Hoeveler, said in court Monday in Miami, Florida that he will announce a decision on August 24 on Noriega's bid to be sent to Panama. Noriega appeared during the hearing wearing a military uniform.

Noriega's lawyer Jon May urged the court not to extradite his client to France. The lawyer said that under the Geneva Conventions, Noriega's prisoner-of-war status entitles him to be returned to Panama rather than another country.

U.S. prosecutors are pushing for Noriega's extradition to France, where he was convicted in absentia in 1999 on drug trafficking and money laundering charges. He faces a 10-year sentence and a multi-million-dollar fine.

A separate hearing on France's extradition request is set for August 28.

Noriega, now 72-years-old, is due for release from a Florida prison on September 9. He was convicted 15 years ago in the United States on drug trafficking and racketeering charges.

Noriega also faces legal challenges in Panama, where he was convicted in absentia for the 1985 murder of dissident leader Hugo Spadafora. Panamanian authorities say the former dictator will be imprisoned if he returns home.

The Geneva Conventions say a prisoner-of-war must be returned to his native country.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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