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French Court Approves Noriega's Extradition to Panama

Framed photos of Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega in the office of attorney Frank Rubino, Dec. 2008 (file photo).

A French appeals court has approved the extradition of jailed former Panamanian military dictator Manuel Noriega to his native country, to serve time for embezzlement, corruption and murder.

Noriega ruled Panama from 1983 to 1989, when he was ousted by U.S. forces.

After his overthrow, he spent two decades in prison in the U.S. on drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering charges before being extradited last year to France, where he was convicted of money laundering and sentenced to seven years in jail.

Noriega told the French court Wednesday that he wants to go back to Panama to prove his innocence. His lawyer said it is now up to the Central American nation to send police or a military plane to carry out the extradition.

The United States also gave its approval to authorize Noriega's return to Panama, where he is accused of murdering political opponents.

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said last week that Noriega will go to jail when he arrives in Panama. But the president also acknowledged that the one-time U.S. ally, now in his late 70s, could be granted house arrest by law because of his age. He also is reported to suffer from health problems.

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