Panama dictator Noriega gets seven-year sentence

Panama dictator Noriega gets seven-year sentence

Wednesday, July 07 2010 @ 09:13 AM EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner
Views: 21
A French court has 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 euros ($3.4 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 United States 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,” Mr Leberquier added. Mr 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
Editor’s Comment: This morning the reporter from TVN Channel 2 who is in Paris to cover the trial was speculating on the amount of time Noriega will actually end up spending in a French prison. She was saying that effectively Noriega has already been held for three additional years in the United States while the courts there decided whether or not to extradite him to France, and that it’s possible the French Courts might consider that as “time served.” Also, for the charges he faced, the French courts could have sentenced him from a minimum of six years to a maximum of ten – and that the French justice system can award as much as 50% reduction in sentence for good behavior. Therefore, she was speculating that if Noriega was sentenced to six years, if that was reduced 50%, and then if he was given three years credit for time served then he might be released relatively quickly. However – I think the reporter was most likely engaged in a game of wishful thinking after having spoken to Noriega’s daughters and legal counsel. It seems to me that the French are not likely to grant the three years “credit” for time served, and that the clock will start running from the time he was extradited to Paris. Any reduction in sentence for good behavior will come later, once he’s done at least three and a half years, if ever. They don’t have to parole him, but I guess they can. And finally, if he manages to survive his sentence in a French prison there are multiple convictions for murder waiting for him here in Panama. When the French are done with him they will just put him on a plane in cuffs, bound for Panama.

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