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Noriega loses new bid to block France extradition as US judge lifts stay

[JURIST] US District Judge William Hoeveler Friday rejected [ruling, PDF] arguments by lawyers for former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] that his extradition to France would violate his prisoner of war status, lifing a stay of extradition he imposed Wednesday. Noriega is slated for release from US federal prison [BOP materials; JURIST report] Sunday. US government lawyers had told Hoeveler they were satisfied that France would effectively treat Noriega as a prisoner of war [JURIST report] even if it has not formally asked France to declare him such, and France itself has formally declined to do so. The US State Department concluded from informal talks with France that Noriega will retain the same extra benefits in France that he enjoyed during his 17 years in US federal prisons, including nicer quarters, and telephone and television privileges.

Noriega is wanted in France on 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 Noriega's lawyers had argued that France's request was superseded by his status as a US prisoner of war and that under the Geneva Conventions the US must return him home to Panama upon his release. The Los Angeles Times has more.

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