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U.S. wants ex-Panamanian dictator extradited to France

  • Story Highlights
  • Manuel Noriega's federal prison sentence will end this summer
  • Noriega was convicted in absentia in France for drug trafficking
  • The former dictator said he will fight a ruling that sends him to Europe
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Justice Department lawyers asked a federal court Tuesday to extradite former Panamanian President Manuel Noriega to France when his U.S. prison term ends later this summer.

Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega is serving time in a federal prison in Miami, Florida.

In a filing on behalf of the French government, U.S. prosecutors described a series of violations of French law, including illegal drug trafficking, which support the Paris request for custody of Noriega.

The former Panamanian general and military dictator was captured during the U.S. invasion of Panama and convicted under U.S. federal law of cocaine trafficking, racketeering and money laundering in the 1980s. He is imprisoned in Miami, Florida.

On Tuesday, U.S. government officials said they had not yet received a request similar to France's from Panama, but the Justice Department document makes it clear that the United States already has made its decision.

Noriega's Miami attorney, Frank Rubino, said he would fight the extradition using protections afforded by the Geneva Conventions.

He said he wants the "government to follow the the Geneva Convention that says that a prisoner of war, who is prosecuted, shall immediately be repatriated back to his country of origin," said Rubino.

Rubino said Noriega wants to return to Panama, where his family lives.

Rubino said, "This is something contrived between the United States and Panama because Panama does not want him back."

The complaint filed before Magistrate Judge William Turnoff in Miami seeks a formal arrest warrant on behalf of French authorities, and asks that upon completion of his U.S. sentence, Noriega be brought into court.

"If, in such a hearing, the court deems the evidence sufficient ... to sustain the charges, the court will certify the same to the secretary of state in order that a warrant may be issued for Noriega's surrender to the appropriate authorities of France," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan.

If, as expected, a federal judge determines Noriega can be extradited, the State Department will arrange for the Justice Department to transfer custody to French authorities.

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Noriega, 69, faces a French prison sentence of 10 years. He was convicted in absentia in 1999 and handed the 10-year sentence plus a fine of 75 million French francs.

One official familiar with the case said if Noriega were allowed to go to Panama, that nation's laws would likely have prevented France from gaining custody. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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