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US extradites Noriega to France on money laundering charges

Former Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] arrived in France Tuesday to face money laundering charges after being extradited from the US. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] signed a surrender warrant Monday after a federal judge lifted the stay [JURIST report] blocking his extradition last month. Noriega will appear 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. Noriega's lawyers have said they will seek his immediate release [AP report], arguing that he is immune from prosecution as a former head of state.

Noriega has been fighting extradition [JURIST report] 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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