Noriega Returns to Panama, to Serve More Time

But he might get house arrest due to age, health problems
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2011 6:00 AM CST
A woman holds a sign that reads in Spanish 'Noriega Murderer' during a demonstration against the return of the Panama's former strongman Manuel Noriega in Panama City, Friday, Dec. 9, 2011.   (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
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(Newser) – After more than 20 years in American and French prisons, serving sentences for drug trafficking and money laundering, Manuel Noriega, Panama's former military strongman, is on his way home today, reports the AP. But Noriega is hardly out of trouble—the 77-year-old will go straight to prison to serve two 20-year sentences for his role in the slayings of two political opponents. "He was very impatient, very happy. He's going home," says one of his French lawyers.

Noriega might not spend much time in prison, though, because of a Panamanian law that permits house arrest for convicts older than 70. The ex-dictator now suffers from high blood pressure and partial paralysis, after a stroke several years ago. "He's coming to serve his sentences, and that's important for the families of the victims," says a former Panamanian attorney general. "His presence here is important because he'll satisfy the demands of justice for his criminal convictions and the trials that he still has to face." (Read more Panama stories.)

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