Panama’s Noriega sentenced to seven years in jail

A French court on Wednesday sentenced Panama’s former dictator, Manuel Noriega, to seven years in jail for laundering drug money.

The court also ordered the seizure of €2,3-million in frozen French bank accounts held in the 76-year-old general’s name.

Prosecutors had sought the maximum 10-year jail sentence for Noriega, who has already served two decades in a US jail and was extradited from the US to France in April.

During three days of hearings last week, Noriega denied taking payments from Colombian drug lords in the 1980s and said he was framed by his one-time sponsor and ally, the United States.

Noriega’s lawyer Yves Leberquier, told reporters after the sentencing that he judged the seven-year sentence “extremely severe”.

Noriega is “downhearted and surprised by this decision, which he can hardly comprehend”, Leberquier added.

Leberquier had said during the trial that a long jail term could amount to a life sentence for the ailing general, who suffers from partial paralysis and high blood pressure.

Another lawyer for Noriega, Olivier Metzner, said after the sentencing that it was “political score-settling … which pleases the American authorities”. — AFP

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