Noriega Going Back to Panama After 20 Years
French court approves extradition to serve time in his homeland
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 23, 2011 4:49 PM CST
In this Nov. 8, 1989, file photo Panamanian military strongman Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega talks to reporters in Panama City.   (Anonymous)
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(Newser) – A French court ruled today that former dictator Manuel Noriega can be extradited to Panama to serve time for past crimes, more than 20 years after being ousted and arrested in a US invasion. Noriega, now in his 70s, could be in his home country tomorrow. Panama wants Noriega returned to serve prison terms handed down after he was convicted in absentia for embezzlement, corruption, and murder. It's possible that because of his age, he may get to serve out his time under house arrest.

"God Bless you," Noriega told the French appeals court. "God bless my family, God bless my enemies, God bless France." Through an interpreter, he said, "I want to return to Panama and prove my innocence." After the 1989 US invasion, Noriega served a 17-year sentence in Florida for colluding with the Medellin cartel to ship cocaine to the US. After his sentence ended, he remained in legal limbo in Miami from 2007 to 2010, when France sought his extradition to face money laundering charges. He was convicted in Paris and sentenced to seven years behind bars. He has been there since.