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French Judge Jails Noriega Ahead of Money Laundering Trial

Lawyers for Manuel Noriega said they will fight for his early release from French prison and against a trial in France. The former Panamanian dictator arrived in Paris Tuesday, after being extradited from the U.S.

Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega faces up to 10 years in jail in France after being sentenced in absentia for money laundering. Noriega denies the charges. And one of his lawyers, Yves Leberquier, says France does not have the right to put Noriega on trial.

Leberquier told French radio that, according to legal rules, Noriega should be granted immunity as a former head of state.

Leberquier also says that a U.S. judge previously accorded Noriega prisoner of war status. He says that France, as a signatory of the Geneva Convention, must respect this ruling - which means Noriega cannot be jailed in a French prison and should be allowed to return home to Panama.

Noriega is expected to appear in a French court for a preliminary hearing on May 12. The Reuters news agency reported he could face trial within two months.

Once an ally of the United States, Noriega was later overthrown by Washington. He served a sentence in a U.S. prison on drug charges. He arrived in France just hours after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed a warrant authorizing his extradition. (SIGNED)

Panama also wants Noriega extradited to face a number of charges, including killing army officers.