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Panama's Noriega to be Released from US Prison in September


The defense attorney for Manuel Noriega says the former Panamanian dictator is to be released from a Miami prison in September. Lisa Ferdinando reports from Miami.

Noriega has been in U.S. custody since surrendering 17 years ago during the U.S. invasion of Panama.

He is currently serving a 30-year sentence for drug trafficking and money laundering.

"He has now come to the point where he has served what is known as his mandatory release time, which means the government must release him from custody on September 9th this year," said Frank Rubino, Noriega's attorney.

Rubino says good behavior was one of the factors considered for the release. He says his client plans return to Panama once out of U.S. custody.

"He has only been to the United States three times in his whole life and has no desire to stay here," he said. "Like anyone else, he wants to return to his home."

But in Panama, Noriega was convicted in absentia on murder charges, and Rubino says his client plans to defend himself in that case.

"When he returns to Panama, he will, through his lawyers, make a motion to reopen that trial so he can participate in it," he said.

Rubino says Noriega plans to do the same to fight a conviction in France.

Noriega ruled Panama for most of the 1980s. He was toppled by the U.S. invasion of Panama which began December 1989.