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French court sentences former dictator Noriega to seven years' jail

A French court has sentenced the former military dictator of Panama, Manuel Noriega, to seven years in prison. The verdict comes only three years after Noriega finished serving a 20-year sentence in the United States.

Former Panamanian general Manuel Noriega

Noriega will have seved 27 years in prison when he is released

Manuel Noriega, the former dictator of the Central American state of Panama, has been sentenced to seven years' jail by a French court for the laundering of drug money in France in the 1980s.

The three-judge panel also ordered the seizure of 2.3 million euros ($2.89 million) that had been frozen in bank accounts under Noriega's name.

The prosecution argued that millions of dollars that passed through Noriega's French accounts during the late 1980s were kickbacks from the powerful Medellin cocaine cartel.

During three days of hearings, the former military strongman denied accepting the money from the cartel and said he had been framed by his one-time ally, the United States.

His lawyer, Yves Leberquier, told reporters after the sentencing that Noriega was "downhearted and surprised by this decision, which he can hardly comprehend."

Noriega was extradited to France in April, only three years after he was released from a US prison at the end of a 20-year sentence for drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering.

The new jail term comes 11 years after a French court convicted him of the charges in absentia and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

Noriega, now 76, was military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989, when he was deposed after a US invasion of the country.

Author: Darren Mara (dpa/AFP)
Editor: Michael Lawton

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