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France set to extradite ex Panama dictator

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17:07 CEST+02:00

France is set to launch extradition proceedings to send ex-dictator Manuel Noriega to face justice in his native Panama, the French foreign ministry said Monday.

A Paris court jailed Noriega, 77, last July after he was extradited from the United States.

Panama said Sunday that the United States had given its approval for him to be extradited again back to Panama. Washington's consent was required under existing treaties since he has not yet served his full term.

"The consent of the United States opens the administrative phase of the procedure to extradite Manuel Noriega," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told a news conference on Monday.

"The government is preparing to make an extradition decree" to be served on Noriega, who will then have a month to appeal it in the French courts, he added.

Following his conviction last year Noriega is serving a seven-year jail term for laundering drug money through French banks in the 1980s. He had served 20 years in a US jail in Miami before being extradited to France.

He has three convictions for human rights violations in Panama, dating to his military rule there from 1983 to 1989. Each conviction carries a 20-year prison sentence.

If he does not appeal against extradition, "the Panamanian authorities will then be notified of the decree and will have to quickly arrange to take custody of the former dictator", Valero said.

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