Latin America & Caribbean

Manuel Noriega extradited to Panama to serve jail terms

Former Panamenian dictator Manuel Noriega (red) after arrive at the Renacer prison, 25 km south east of Panama City, on December 11, 2011
Image caption Noriega was taken to a prison near Panama City

Panama's ex-leader Manuel Noriega has been extradited back to his home country from France and taken straight to a prison.

His plane touched down in Panama City on Sunday evening after flying from Paris via Madrid.

He was convicted in absentia of crimes committed during his time in power in the 1980s.

The 77-year-old has already spent more than 20 years in prisons in France and the United States.

Last month, a French court approved a request from Panama to send him back home to be jailed over his convictions for murder, corruption and embezzlement.

He had the right to appeal, but his lawyers said he wanted to return to Panama.

Foreign Minister Roberto Henriquez has said the government's priority is to guarantee Noriega's safety.

Noriega travelled with a team of Panamanian officials, including the country's attorney-general and a doctor. After his arrival, he was escorted to El Renacer jail, south east of Panama City.

Murder of opponents

Although he was never president, General Manuel Noriega served as Panama's de facto leader between 1983 to 1989.

Image caption Noriega served as Panama's de facto leader in the 1980s

Once a US ally, he 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.

In Panama itself, he faces three 20-year jail terms for crimes committed during his rule, including the murders of political opponents.

However, it remains unclear whether he will remain in prison, as Panama allows people aged 70 years and above to serve their sentences at home.

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