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Judge Temporarily Blocks Noriega Extradition


A federal judge in Miami, Florida has temporarily blocked the extradition of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who has been fighting efforts to send him from the U.S. to France to face money laundering charges.

Judge William Hoeveler issued the order Wednesday, after lawyers for the former strongman filed papers to block Noriega's extradition.

The order called on the defense to present what it called "credible" evidence to show that if Noriega were sent to France, he would not receive Geneva Conventions protection as a prisoner of war. Noriega is seeking to return to Panama.

Noriega's lawyers have until Thursday morning (1300 UTC) to make their case. The judge also ruled that federal prosecutors have until noon local time (1600 UTC) to respond.

Noriega is scheduled to be released on Sunday after spending 17 years in a Florida prison. He faces a 10-year prison sentence in France on the money laundering charges.

In Panama, Noriega has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for his role in the disappearance and murder of opposition figures.

Noriega surrendered to U.S. troops in January 1990, two weeks after U.S. forces invaded Panama. A U.S. court convicted him in 1992 of drug trafficking and other charges.

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

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