Fri, Sep 07, 2007 - Page 7 News List

US judge blocks bid to extradite Noriega for trial in France


A US judge in Florida has temporarily blocked the extradition of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to France, giving his lawyers time to argue that his rights would not be protected there.

Noriega's lawyers had asked the judge to stop the extradition to face French money laundering charges after his release from a US prison this weekend. They have argued that Noriega should be sent back to Panama because he is a prisoner of war who merits the protections of the Geneva Conventions.

They claim there is "substantial reason" to believe that France instead intends to treat Noriega as a "common criminal."

At a hearing last month, Assistant US Attorney Sean Cronin said France had assured the US it would honor Noriega's status as a prisoner of war.

Noriega, 73, was captured by US military forces in 1989.

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