Manuel Noriega: French court backs his return to Panama

Manuel Antonio Noriega - file photo from 1987
Image caption Manuel Noriega ran Panama in the 1980s

A French court has granted a request by Panama to send Manuel Noriega back home, where he is wanted for crimes committed during his 1983-1989 rule.

The former Panamanian military leader is currently serving a prison sentence in France for money laundering.

Prior to that, he spent 20 years in prison in the US after being convicted there of drug-trafficking charges.

Noriega is likely to return before the end of the year to Panama, where courts have already convicted him in absentia.

He was found guilty of embezzlement, corruption and the murder of two opponents.

In its ruling on Wednesday, a Paris appeals court cleared the way for his extradition.

Noriega, 77, could appeal but his lawyer has previously said his client wishes to return home.

Once a US ally, Noriega was arrested by invading American troops in January 1990, amid allegations he had turned Panama into a drug-trafficking hub.

He was extradited from the US to France in 2010, where he had been convicted in absentia of laundering money from Colombian drug gangs through a French bank to buy property in Paris.

He was sentenced to seven years.

Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli has said that it will be up to a judge to decide if Noriega, given his age, is jailed or put under house arrest.

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