France 'preparing' Manuel Noriega extradition to Panama

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Manuel Antonio Noriega (1984)
Image caption,
Former Panamanian strongman, Manuel Antonio Noriega

The French authorities say they are preparing to try to extradite the former Panamanian military ruler, Manuel Noriega, back to Panama.

Noriega is currently serving a seven-year sentence in France for money laundering.

But he is wanted by the Panamanian authorities, having been convicted there for crimes committed during his rule in the 1980s.

Once France issues its decree, Noriega will have one month to appeal.

Gen Noriega was extradited from the United States to France last year, having served 17 years of a sentence there for drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering.

Once an informer for the CIA, Noriega was arrested by US troops after their invasion of Panama in 1989.

A French foreign ministry spokesman, Bernard Valero, said France would move forward with the extradition process having received the consent of the US authorities.

This was necessary under the terms of the extradition agreement that brought Noriega to France in the first place, as he has not yet served the full sentence imposed by the French court.

The former Panamanian was originally sentenced in absentia in France, in 1999, for laundering money from Colombian drugs gangs through a French bank, in order to buy property in Paris.

This ruling was confirmed at a re-trial after his extradition from the US.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the Panamanian foreign ministry said Gen Noriega was being sought "to serve a 20-year sentence" for having ordered the killing of Hugo Spadafora Franco.

Mr Spadafora, a political opponent of Noriega, was found beheaded in 1985.

Ten years later, a Panamanian court sentenced Noriega in absentia for the crime.

Noriega, 77, was the de facto ruler of Panama between 1983 and 1989.