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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 January 2008, 22:50 GMT
Noriega appeals 'not exhausted'
Manuel Noriega
Manuel Noriega is not giving up the fight against extradition to France
Panama's former leader Manuel Noriega cannot be extradited to France until his appeals in the US are exhausted, says a federal judge.

Noriega, 73, has completed a 17-year jail sentence in Miami for drugs offences but is wanted in France on charges of money-laundering.

He has remained in US custody while appealing against his extradition.

The judge said Noriega deserved time to prove that the Geneva Conventions barred his removal to France.

Mr Noriega is deemed to be a prisoner of war in America because he was seized when US troops invaded Panama in 1989.

But his lawyers claim if he is sent to France he will be treated as a "common criminal".

Legal issues

US District Judge Paul Huck said that "it appears that these are legal issues on which no other federal court has ruled, directly or indirectly".

"A short delay during the appeal will not, in any meaningful way, harm or otherwise adversely affect France's prosecution of Noriega or the diplomatic relationship between the United States and France," he said.

Mr Noriega was once one of Washington's top allies in Central America.

But charges of drug-trafficking, election-rigging and human rights violations led to the US invasion of Panama in 1989 and his capture by US forces.

In 1999 he was sentenced in absentia in France to 10 years in jail for laundering money through French banks to buy three luxurious apartments.

SEE ALSO
Former Panama leader stays in US
09 Sep 07 |  Americas
Noriega suffers extradition blow
07 Sep 07 |  Americas
Noriega given stay of extradition
06 Sep 07 |  Americas
Q&A: Manuel Noriega extradition
07 Sep 07 |  Americas
Is Noriega too hot to handle?
06 Sep 07 |  Americas
Country profile: Panama
25 Aug 07 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Panama
25 Aug 07 |  Country profiles

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