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France judge orders Noriega to remain in custody pending trial

A French judge ruled Tuesday that former Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] must remain in custody until his trial on money laundering charges. Noriega arrived in France Tuesday morning after being extradited [JURIST report] from the US, where he had served a 17-year sentence on drug charges. Noriega appeared Tuesday before French prosecutors to hear the charges against him, which stem from allegedly laundering $3 million in drug profits by purchasing property in Paris. He then appeared before a judge to request that he be sent back to Panama immediately. His lawyers argued that he is immune from prosecution as a former head of state and that the statute of limitations has expired. The judge rejected those arguments [Le Monde report, in French], remanding Noriega into custody.

Noriega fought extradition [JURIST report] from the US since 2007. Last month, the US Supreme Court declined to reconsider [JURIST report] Noriega's petition to stop the extradition process. His lawyers filed the petition in February after the Supreme Court denied certiorari [JURIST reports] on the case in January. Noriega, who has been declared a prisoner of war, sought to enforce a provision of the Geneva Convention [ICRC backgrounder] that requires repatriation at the end of confinement. Noriega and his wife were sentenced in absentia [Reuters report] to 10 years in jail by a French court in 1999, but France agreed to hold a new trial if he was extradited.

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