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French Prosecutors Seek 10-Year Sentence for Noriega

A court sketch made at the Paris courthouse shows former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega (R) and one of Noriega's lawyer Yves Leberquier (L), during his trial, 28 Jun 2010

French prosecutors have called for the maximum 10-year jail sentence for former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, on trial in Paris on charges of laundering millions of dollars in drug money.

Prosecutor Michel Maes also urged judges Wednesday in closing arguments to freeze some of Noriega's other assets.

The 76-year-old ex-general is charged with laundering illicit cocaine profits in the 1980s through two French banks, and then using the proceeds to buy luxury apartments in Paris.

Noriega has dismissed the charges, testifying Tuesday they stem from an "imaginary" banking scheme concocted by the United States. He said the funds came from his legitimate businesses and from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which he, at one time, assisted in monitoring Colombian drug trafficking.

Noriega's lawyers said Wednesday that there is nothing to prove the money spent in France came from drug trafficking.

France convicted Noriega in absentia on the money laundering charges in 1999, but he was entitled to a new trial under French law after being extradited from the United States.

Noriega ruled Panama from 1981 to 1989, and was arrested a year later during a U.S. invasion. He has already spent 20 years in a U.S. prison for drug trafficking and money laundering.

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