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Noriega extradited to France

The AP reports:

The United States extradited Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian dictator, to France on Monday, clearing the way for him to face money laundering charges.Mr. Noriega, who had been in a federal prison in Miami, was put on an Air France flight to Paris, according to a Department of Justice official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the case.

Yves Leberquier, one of Mr. Noriega’s lawyers, confirmed that he was headed to France.

“When he arrives he will be presented to the prosecutor and notified of the arrest warrant, and he will confirm his opposition” to the warrant, Mr. Leberquier said.

After that, a Paris judge will determine whether Mr. Noriega should stay in custody pending further legal action. Mr. Leberquier said Mr. Noriega’s lawyers would press for the hearing to be open “so that the defense can be totally transparent.”

Earlier Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signed a so-called surrender warrant for Mr. Noriega, after a federal judge in Miami lifted a stay last month blocking the extradition, said a State Department spokesman, Mark Toner.

“Now that all judicial challenges to Noriega’s extradition have been resolved, the secretary of state issued a surrender warrant for his extradition to France,” Mr. Toner said.

Mr. Noriega was ousted as Panama’s leader and put on trial after an invasion by American military forces in 1989 drove him from power. He was convicted of drug racketeering and related charges in 1992. His sentence ended in 2007, but France requested his extradition shortly before his drug trafficking sentence in the United States was completed.

The French contend that Mr. Noriega laundered about $3 million in illicit drug proceeds by purchasing luxury apartments in Paris. He was convicted in absentia, but France agreed to grant him a new trial if he was extradited.

Federal judges and the United States Supreme Court declined to block his extradition, turning down his contention that the Geneva Conventions treaties on prisoners of war required that he be returned to Panama.

Mr. Noriega, believed to be in his 70s, was Panama’s longtime intelligence chief before he seized power in 1982. He had been considered a valued C.I.A. asset for many years, but once in power he joined forces with drug traffickers and was implicated in the death of a political opponent.

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.