Noriega Sleeps in Prison in France

Original French Title: Noriega Dort en Prison en France

The ex-dictator, ex-drug-trafficer, ex-agent of the CIA, extradited from the United States, arrived yesterday [1] in Paris. Condemned in absentia, he will reappear before the courts.

The former general and de facto head of Panama will finish his days behind bars in France? Antonio Noriega arrived yesterday morning at Roissy [2], where he was to be interviewed by the French justice system. On 1 July 1999, the criminal tribunal in Paris had condemned him in absentia to 10 years in prison for laundering of funds obtained from the drug traffic.

“We will do everything we can in order to prove that his place in not in France, that this man should return to his own country, (…) which is all he asks,” asserts his defense lawyer, Maître Metzner, arguing on the basis of his status as prisoner of war, of the immunity of which benefit chiefs of state, and because of the prescription over time of the deeds in question.

Condemned in 1992 in the United States to a prison sentence of 30 years for drug trafficking, association with criminals, and conspiracy, a sentence remanded to 17 years for good conduct, the destiny of the ex-general, now 75 years of age, was hanging on a decision of the Supreme Court. On Monday, the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, signed the act of extradition without notifying his American attorneys.

A notorious drug dealer and distinguished collaborator of the CIA up until the early 1980’s, the ex-general ws overthrown in 1989 by the United States during a military invasion. He was a peerless ally of the dominant world power. Washington kept its eyes well shut with respect to his anti-democratic and illegal activities as long as he faithfully served their counter-revolutionary and economic interests — via the Panama Canal — in the region. That was until the day that he began to interfere in the plans of the Pentagon. In the United States, during his trial, the justice system stayed well clear of any reference to the “political order”.

In Panama, the Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that he “respects the decision” to extradite Noriega to Paris. As if the country of Panama doesn’t have a dossier on Noriega. But one should bear in mind that two prison sentences of 20 and 15 years there await the unthroned dictator for his murder of two opponents.

In France, Noriega must still reply to charges of laundering money, to the tune of 3.5 million dollars. This is money that passed through French banks, the CIC, the BNP, the Credit Lyonnais, and others. Nobody at the time made any issue of this dubious fortune. In 1987, Noriega was even decorated with the Légion d’Honneur by the socialist French president, François Mitterand. Since then, the holdings of the Noriega couple have been seized, in the face of a fine of 41 million dollars. The French justice system can nevertheless start a new trial, and without any necessity to cast light into the shadowy areas of this political, financial, and judiciary imbroglio.

[1] 27 April 2010

[2] Charles de Gaulle Airport

Translated Tuesday 4 May 2010, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Henry Crapo