Panama’s former strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega is set to be extradited from France to his homeland to serve time for three murders, following a French appeals court ruling on Wednesday.
The ruling is a victory for human rights campaigners who want to see him answer for crimes in Panama, but he may escape jail due to his age.
Noriega, who ruled Panama with an iron fist from 1983 until his overthrow in a US invasion in 1989, spent more than 20 years in an American prison before being extradited in 2010 to France, where he was sentenced to seven years for money laundering.
“The court acknowledges Manuel Antonio Noriega’s consent to being handed over to the Panamanian authorities,” the judge said.
French justice had already approved extradition for Noriega earlier this year but legal proceedings related to a second extradition request delayed the transfer. This required American approval because US authorities sent Noriega to France in April 2010 while he was serving time in a Miami jail. France’s prime minister, François Fillon, must now sign an administrative decree for Noriega to be transferred, possibly within days. Noriega’s lawyer Olivier Metzner said on Wednesday it was now up to Panama to send a military aeroplane or police authorities to carry out the extradition.
Panama wants him extradited from France to serve three 20-year sentences for corruption, embezzlement and the murders of three opponents – Hugo Spadafora, a doctor and former deputy health minister, in 1985; Captain Moises Giroldi in 1989; and union activist Heliodoro Portugal in 1970.