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France will treat Noriega as POW after extradition: US State Department

[JURIST] The US Department of State [official website] is satisfied that France will treat former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] as a prisoner of war if extradited to France upon his release from prison [BOP materials; JURIST report] Sunday, Assistant US Attorney Michael "Pat" Sullivan said in a court filing Thursday. The US has not formally asked France to declare Noriega a POW, but the US State Department concluded from informal talks with France that Noriega will retain the same extra benefits in France that he has enjoyed during his 17 years in US federal prisons, including nicer quarters, telephone privileges and television privileges.

US District Judge William Hoeveler temporarily blocked [JURIST report] the French extradition of Noriega Wednesday to give Noriega's lawyers time to argue that his rights will not be fully protected in France. Noriega is wanted in France to face charges of money laundering through French banks. Noriega and his wife were sentenced in absentia [AP report] to 10 years in jail in 1999, but France has agreed to hold a new trial if he is extradited. Noriega's lawyers had argued that France's request was superseded by his status as a US prisoner of war and that under the Geneva Conventions the US must return him home to Panama upon his release. AP has more.

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