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Panama's Noriega Fights US Extradition to France


Lawyers for former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega are urging a U.S. appeals court to block his proposed extradition to France to face money laundering charges. They say he should be returned to his home country given his status as a "prisoner of war."

Noriega's attorneys argued their case Wednesday before a three-judge panel. The judges, meanwhile, questioned whether the 73-year-old Noriega has any legal right to challenge the extradition.

In previous court rulings, judges have rejected Noriega's attempts to block the French extradition request. Last year, a U.S. federal judge ruled Noriega cannot be extradited until his U.S. court appeals are exhausted.

Noriega surrendered to U.S. troops in January 1990, shortly after the U.S. invasion of Panama. Noriega was convicted in the United States in 1992 of drug trafficking and other charges. In 2007, he completed a 17-year prison term, but is in custody pending the outcome of the appeals.

France has accused Noriega of laundering more than three million dollars from drug profits in the country and using the money to purchase expensive apartments there. He faces a 10-year prison sentence for the charges.

In Panama, Noriega has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for his role in the disappearance and murder of opposition figures. Panama filed for his extradition in 1991.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP

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