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Noriega seeks to block extradition to france

Posted on February 22, 2010 3:00 AM EST

Manuel Noriega continues to fight his extradition to France. His attorneys have filed a petition with the United States Supreme Court in a last ditch effort to avoid being sent back to France to stand trial. He has already been convicted in absentia, but France has promised him a new criminal trial upon his return. Noriega was convicted in 1992 in a Miami, Florida federal court for cocaine trafficking, money laundering and racketeering. He completed his prison sentence more than two and a half years ago, but remains confined awaiting the final decision on his extradition. France is waiting to charge Noriega for allegedly laundering money through French banks. Noriega's criminal defense lawyers hope that the highest court in the land will hear the appeal based on a Supreme Court justice's dissenting opinion on another case.

Noriega's appellate attorney believes that a finding in favor of Noriega could force the federal court system to handle differently the cases of the Guantanamo Bay detainees that are being held as prisoners of war. Noriega is trying to use his prisoner of war status to block his extradition. His attorneys believe that his prisoner of war status under the Geneva Convention gives him the right to be repatriated back to Panama. The federal courts have ruled otherwise and have deemed the extradition to France proper. Legal experts highly doubt that the Supreme Court will even hear the case. They believe that the Supreme Court would rather address the Guantanamo detainees because there are over two hundred cases dealing with that matter.

If the Supreme Court were to hear the case, even a Miami military lawyer knows the Military Commissions Act of 2006 prohibits the use of the Geneva Convention in federal court to secure one's release or prevent one's extradition. Noriega and the Guantanamo Bay detainees are trying to use the Geneva Convention to convince the federal government that all prisoners of war have right under the act to be sent home or repatriated at the cessation of hostilities. Justice Thomas wrote in his dissent on another matter somewhat related to the aforementioned matters, "Whatever conclusion we reach, our opinion will help the political branches and the courts discharge their responsibilities over detainee cases, and will spare some detainees and the government years of unnecessary litigation."

Noriega's appellate attorney states, "He's entitled to protection under the Geneva Convention. It requires that prisoners of war be repatriated after the cessation of hostilities." Not only does France want a piece of Noriega, but so does his home country of Panama. He is accused of murdering a political rival prior to his capture by United States armed forces. The United States has decided to honor France's extradition request over Panama's, probably for political reasons. The United States Attorney's Office has filed a petition in federal court to extradite Noriega to France immediately. The federal judge presiding over the case has yet to make a ruling on the petition. If his final effort with the Supreme Court fails, he can still appeal to the Secretary of State whose signature in necessary to complete the extradition procedure.

Noreiga Appeals to the U.S. High Court to Avert Extradition to France, CNN.com, February 18, 2010.
Categories: Extraditions