French prosecutors seek 10-year term for Manuel Noriega
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Last Updated: Thursday, July 01, 2010, 00:04
  
Paris: Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega should be jailed for 10 years for laundering millions of dollars in drug money through the French banks, a French prosecutor said on Wednesday, as defense lawyers dismissed the accusations as a political plot.

In the closing arguments of the three-day trial, prosecutor Michel Maes insisted money passing through the general's French accounts during the late 1980s were kickbacks from the powerful Medellin cocaine cartel.

Noriega spent 20 years in US custody for drug trafficking and was extradited to France in April. A French court had convicted the ex-dictator on the money laundering charges in absentia in 1999, but he was granted a retrial.

Yves Leberquier, one of Noriega's lawyers, branded the proceedings a "political case" and not a judicial one, and asked the judges to consider the political context that pitted Noriega against the United States ahead of the 1989 US invasion of his country.

Leberquier questioned the impartiality of Noriega's drug trafficking trial in the US and said the French proceedings were "the continuation of this grand masquerade."

Leberquier called the persecutor's request for Noriega to be sentenced to 10 years "a life sentence, in reality." The 76-year-old former general's age and feeble health mean he would certainly die behind bars if convicted, Leberquier said.

In testimony yesterday, Noriega insisted he was the victim of a US-orchestrated "conspiracy." In a monologue lasting more than an hour, Noriega explained his long and friendly dealings with the US - including the CIA - and blamed his legal woes on his falling out with the Americans.

Noriega had been considered a valued CIA asset for years before he joined forces with drug traffickers and was implicated in the death of a political opponent.

The French trial proceedings wrap up today. A verdict in the case is expected in several weeks or months.

PTI


First Published: Thursday, July 01, 2010, 00:04


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