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Federal judge rules Noriega can remain in US until extradition appeals exhausted

[JURIST] US District Judge Paul Huck ruled Thursday that former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] will remain in the US until all appeals relating to an extradition request by France have been exhausted. Earlier this month, Huck denied Noriega's request [JURIST report] to block his extradition to France, but on Thursday granted the defense's motion to stay Noriega's extradition to allow him time to pursue all legal options.

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 has made multiple attempts to block his extradition; in addition to Huck's January 2008 ruling, another federal judge in September 2007 rejected [JURIST report] Noriega's arguments that the extradition would violate his prisoner of war status. Noriega's lawyers argue that France's request was superseded by his status as a US prisoner of war and that under the Geneva Conventions the US must return him home to Panama upon his release.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 US State Department has indicated that it is satisfied that France will treat Noriega as a POW [JURIST report] if Noriega is extradited to that country. AP has more.

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