November 23, 2011 / 2:24 PM / 7 years ago

French court gives final ok to Noriega extradition

PARIS (Reuters) - A French appeals court on Wednesday gave its definitive approval for former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega to be extradited to his home country to serve a 20-year prison sentence for human rights crimes.

The court approved extradition for Noriega - Panama’s de facto ruler in the 1980s before being toppled in a U.S.-led invasion - earlier this year but legal proceedings related to a second extradition request delayed the transfer.

“I wish to return to Panama to prove my innocence,” Noriega, dressed in a black jacket and white shirt, told the court. “God bless my family, my enemies, and France.”

Noriega’s lawyer Olivier Metzner said it was now up to Panama to send a military aircraft or police to carry out the extradition.

Noriega, 77, has been jailed since 2010 in France, serving a seven-year sentence for laundering millions of euros into French bank accounts and properties in the 1980s.

Previously, he served 20 years in a U.S. prison for drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering.

Born into poverty, Noriega climbed to the top of Panama’s military and became the Central American country’s de facto leader before being captured by U.S. troops during the 1989 invasion.

Reporting By Thierry Leveque, Writing by Alexandria Sage

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