The trial of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] began Monday in a Paris criminal court. Noriega faces money laundering charges in France for allegedly laundering $3 million in drug profits by purchasing property in Paris. He was extradited [JURIST report] to France in April by the US, where he had served a 17-year sentence on drug charges. Noriega was already sentenced in absentia [Reuters report] to 10 years in jail by a French court in 1999, but under French law is entitled to a new trial. The trial is set to last for three days.
Last month, the Paris Court of Appeals [official website, in French] denied a request [JURIST report] by Noriega to be released from jail while awaiting his trial. Noriega claimed that he is too well-known to be a flight risk and that because of his partial paralysis and poor health, he was not receiving adequate care in Paris's La Sante prison. The court rejected his appeal, remanding him to custody. In April, the French Justice Ministry denied [JURIST report] Noriega's request to be treated as a prisoner of war (POW). Justice Ministry spokesperson Guillaume Didier said that Noriega would not be treated as a POW [AFP report] because the charges are based on breaches of common law not related to military service. Earlier that week, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli [official profile, in Spanish] said that his government would seek Noriega's extradition [JURIST report] to face charges of human rights violations in Panama. Noriega had fought extradition [JURIST report] from the US since 2007. In March, the US Supreme Court declined to reconsider [JURIST report] Noriega's petition to stop the extradition process.