Former Panamanian president Manuel Noriega faced money laundering charges in a French courtroom yesterday after being extradited from the US, opening up a whole new legal battle for the strongman who spent two decades behind bars in Florida for drug trafficking.
French authorities claim Noriega, who was ousted in a US invasion in 1989, had laundered about US$3 million in drug proceeds by purchasing luxury apartments in Paris.
Noriega was convicted in absentia, but France agreed to give him a new trial if he was extradited.
The 72-year-old Noriega arrived yesterday morning on a direct flight from Miami and was served with an international arrest warrant. He could face another 10 years in prison if convicted in France.
Noriega’s French lawyers are seeking his immediate release, saying his detention and transfer are unlawful. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had signed a surrender warrant for Noriega after a federal judge in Miami lifted a stay blocking his extradition last month.
Noriega appeared before prosecutors behind closed doors at the main Paris courthouse yesterday and they read him the warrant, the first step before any other judicial action can be taken against him in France.
He was then escorted out in an armored car with darkened windows.
He was to return to the courthouse later yesterday to appear before a judge who will decide whether to keep him behind bars or release him under judicial supervision pending further action.
If he is released, even to house arrest or under other strict legal controls, that would be a major victory after a generation behind bars.
“The man appears to be very weak,” said Olivier Metzner, one of his French lawyers.
Yves Leberquier, Noriega’s other French lawyer, said the former dictator was half-paralyzed since suffering from a mild stroke four years ago.
Leberquier said it was illegal to try a former head of state who should have immunity from prosecution.
Other legal objections are that Noriega is considered a prisoner of war, a status Leberquier said French jails aren’t ready to accommodate, and that the charges against him are no longer valid because the acts he is accused of happened too long ago, the lawyer said.
Noriega was declared a POW after his 1992 drug conviction by a Miami federal judge.
EFFICIENCY: The rules for Philippine arrivals were revised after 17.6% of arrivals with symptoms tested positive, compared with 0.7% of those with no symptoms Starting today, Chinese spouses who hold a reunion permit can apply to enter Taiwan and travelers without symptoms from the Philippines do not need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, but are to be tested after a 14-day quarantine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that from today, Chinese who are married to a Taiwanese citizen and hold a reunion permit can apply to the National Immigration Agency for entry into Taiwan. Chinese who are married to a foreign national and hold an accompanied reunion permit
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
CONSOLIDATION? Taiwan Thinktank deputy executive-general Doong Sy-chi said Beijing’s intimidation tactics are further alienating those who identify as Chinese Only 2 percent of respondents to a poll on constitutional amendments and national identity identified as Chinese, while 62.6 percent identified as Taiwanese, the Taiwan Thinktank said yesterday. Legislators have proposed amendments to the Additional Articles of the Constitution (憲法增修條文), which would change the definition of the nation’s territory, remove the Taiwan Provincial Government as an entity, prioritize the use of “Taiwan” for national groups at international events, and remove restrictions on defining the national emblem, national flag and national anthem. The poll showed that 80.5 percent of respondents agreed that the nation should participate as “Taiwan” at events organized by world
MISTAKE: The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy is not a UN body, and the government is committed to protecting the nation’s name, Joseph Wu said The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday condemned the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy for listing Taiwanese cities as belonging to China on its Web site, and asked that it correct the error. The organization was inaugurated in Brussels in 2016 as a global coalition of mayors committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Six Taiwanese cities at the time joined the coalition as cities in “Taiwan,” the ministry said. However, officials from the Kaohsiung City Government — one of the organization’s members — last week noticed that the city was now listed on the organization’s Web site as a