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Wednesday, April 7, 1999 Published at 00:17 GMT 01:17 UK

World: Americas

Panama seeks Noriega extradition

Manuel Noriega: Jailed in the US in 1989

Panama has asked the United States to extradite the former military dictator Manual Noriega.

Panama wants to jail Noriega for executing army officers in 1989.

The former Panamanian leader is currently serving a prison sentence in the US for drug trafficking.

The extradition request follows a ruling last month by a Florida judge who reduced his sentence there by 10 years to 30 years.

Peter Greste: "A blow from his homeland"
BBC Central Americas correspondent Peter Greste says that if the US agrees to the request, made by Panama's high court, Noriega could face another 40 years behind bars.

Noriega was found guilty in his absence in 1995 of conspiring to murder nine army officers by firing squad. The officers had tried to overthrow his regime in 1989.

A statement issued by the Panamanian High Court said: "The court is negotiating the extradition of Manuel Noriega for conspiracy to commit murder."

Sentencing pending

Sentencing in the case is still pending but Noriega could face 20 years in jail for the executions.

Noriega, who ruled between 1983 and 1989, could face another 20-year sentence as he has also been found guilty in his absence for the torture and death of Hugo Spadafora, one of Noriega's most outspoken critics.

A US Embassy spokesman said his office had not been notified of the matter.

Noriega was jailed in the US in 1989 and will be eligible for parole in 2006.

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