Page last updated at 15:57 GMT, Monday, 25 January 2010

US supreme court rules in favour of Noriega extradition

Manuel Noriega, pictured in 1996
Manuel Noriega has remained in US custody after serving 17 years

The US Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from Panama's ex-leader Manuel Noriega against his extradition to France on money laundering charges.

Noriega wanted to be sent back to his country after completing a drug sentence at a jail in Florida.

In April, a US court ruled the former dictator could be extradited to France.

The US convicted Noriega of laundering illicit drugs money in 1990 and he was sentenced to 30 years, later reduced to 17 years for good behaviour.

France convicted him in his absence in 1999 for laundering money through French banks, though it says he will be granted a new trial.

His lawyers had argued international law required he be returned to Panama.

As a former prisoner of war following the US invasion of Panama in 1989, they said, the Geneva Conventions precluded his extradition to a third country.

He also faces a 20-year sentence at home imposed by a Panamanian court in his absence for ordering the murder in 1985 of Hugo Spadafora, a prominent opponent.

Noriega, who is in his 70s, led Panama in the mid- to late 1980s and was a key American ally in the region before being captured by invading US forces.

He has remained in US custody ever since the completion of his 17-year US prison term, pending his appeal against extradition.

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