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Noriega loses bid to block France extradition

[JURIST] US District Court Judge Paul Huck denied a request Wednesday by former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to block his extradition to France. The latest ruling follows the decision by US District Court Judge William Hoeveler in September 2007 to reject [ruling, PDF; JURIST report] arguments by Noriega's lawyers that his extradition to France would violate his prisoner of war (POW) status. Huck also determined that French officials have adequately shown that Noriega would be treated as a prisoner of war under the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials], even if he will not be specifically labeled as such. The US State Department concluded from informal talks [JURIST report] 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 and telephone and television privileges. Noriega will remain in a US federal prison [JURIST report] until all appeals relating to the extradition request have been exhausted. Noriega's lawyers can now appeal the case to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website]. Ultimately, the US State Department will issue the final order on France's extradition request.

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 Noriega's lawyers had argued that France's request was superseded by his status as a US prisoner of war and that under the Geneva Conventions the US must return him home to Panama upon his release.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

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