Latin America & Caribbean

Panama's jailed ex-ruler Noriega 'to return Sunday'

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

Panama's jailed former ruler Manuel Noriega will be extradited from France to his homeland on Sunday, Foreign Minister Roberto Henriquez says.

The minister says Noriega - who has already been convicted in absentia of corruption and murder in Panama - will serve his sentences in his native land.

Noriega, aged 77, is also wanted in Panama for other crimes allegedly committed during his 1983-89 rule.

He has already spent more than 20 years in French and US prisons.

Panamanian officials are currently in France dealing with paperwork ahead of Noriega's return, which was cleared a fortnight ago by a Paris appeals court.

The government's priority was to guarantee Noriega's safety, Mr Henriquez said.

Noriega's s lawyer, Yves Leberquier, described it as "good news" that "this old and tired man" was to be returned to his homeland.

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

He spent 20 years in prison in the US after being convicted there of the charges.

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

He received a seven-year jail sentence from the French court.

"Panama is ready to receive Noriega," cabinet chief Roxana Mendez told the AFP news agency.

She said he would be taken to prison, but it remains unclear whether he will remain there as Panama allows people aged 70 years and above to serve their sentences at home.

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