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Prosecutors demand jail for Noriega
Lawyers call for maximum sentence as trial of former Panamanian general ends in Paris.
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2010 01:59
Manuel Noriega is accused of laundering $2.8m in drug money through French banks in the 1980s [AP]

The trial of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega has wrapped up in Paris with prosecutors demanding he receive the maximum sentence of 10 years in jail for laundering drug money through French banks.   

The 76-year-old general has denied taking payments from Colombian drug lords in the 1980s, dismissing the accusations that he laundered drug money in France as a scheme concocted by the United States.

"I call on God's divine providence to give wisdom to you and all the judges," Noriega said, punching the air as he addressed the presiding judge as the trial drew to a close on Wednesday.

Noriega was extradited to France in April after spending 20 years in a US prison for drug trafficking.

He has been charged with laundering the equivalent of $2.8m from the Medellin drug cartel through French banks in the late 1980s.

Wrapping up the prosecution case on the final day of the trial, state prosecutor Michel Maes told the court: "We should retain the image of a perfectly structured organisation in the hands of one man, and in the interests of one man, Manuel Noriega.

"This system was conceived to launder drug money for Mr Noriega's profit."

Maes also demanded that all of Noriega's assets held in French accounts be seized.

'Unreliable testimony'

Noriega's defence team argued that he should be acquitted, saying the allegations against him hinge on unreliable testimony from ex-drug traffickers paid and given protection by US authorities.

One of the lawyers, Yves Leberquier, urged the court to "go beyond the image that the United States present of Noriega" as a "dictator and cocaine-trafficker."

He said a 10-tear term would amount to a life sentence for Noriega, who suffers from partial paralysis and high blood pressure, meaning "the death in jail of an ill man of 76."

In 1999 a French court sentenced Noriega to 10 years in jail in his absence, but he was allowed to appeal that ruling in person after his extradition.

Noriega, who ruled Panama from 1983 to 1989, has already spent 20 years in a Miami prison for drug trafficking and money laundering and for years fought against being extradited to France.

A verdict is expected as early as next month.

Source:
Agencies
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