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Noriega's extradition fight ends without success

Posted on March 23, 2010 3:00 AM EST

The French courts have already convicted Noriega of money laundering in absentia, but the French government has promised him a new criminal trial upon his return. Noriega was arrested during the U.S. invasion of Panama. In 1992, after a lengthy trial Noriega was convicted in a Miami, Florida federal court for cocaine trafficking, money laundering and racketeering. He completed his 10 year prison sentence in September 2007, but remains in federal custody. He has been held beyond his release date while the extradition matter with France was sorted out in the federal court system.

In 1992, soon after his arrest, a federal judge ruled that Noriega was a prisoner of war and given POW status. Later, the same judge ruled that his POW status did not preclude his extradition to a third party. Noriega's appellate attorneys tried to use his prisoner of war status to block his extradition. His attorneys argued that his prisoner of war status under the Geneva Convention gave him the right to be repatriated back to Panama. The lower federal courts have ruled otherwise and have deemed the extradition to France proper. As the legal experts opined, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Noriega's criminal defense attorney is expected to travel to France next week in an effort to resolve the money laundering case favorably for his client. The attorney was quoted as saying, "There are no options left in the United States, its over." The federal marshals have not disclosed when Noriega will be transported to France. The marshal service usually does not disclose prisoner transfers for security reasons.

Supreme Court Refuses Noriega's Re-Hearing Request, The Washington Post, March 22, 2010.
Categories: Extraditions