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Monday
Dec122011

Former Dictator Manuel Noriega Returns to Panama -- As a Prisoner

Stephen Ferry/Liaison(PANAMA CITY, Panama) -- Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega returned home on Sunday for the first time since being ousted by the U.S. more than 20 years ago and jailed, but his homecoming was not joyous.

The 77-year-old was extradited from France and returned to Panama as a prisoner to face three 20-year jail sentences for crimes committed during his rule in the 1980s, including the murder of political opponents.

Noriega, once a U.S. ally, was removed from office in January 1990 after American troops entered Panama in response to his growing power and what many had said was his willingness to turn the strategically-important Central American country into a drug trafficking hub.

Noriega ended up taking refuge in the Vatican embassy in Panama while more than 26,000 U.S. troops clashed with government loyalists.  American troops finally removed Noriega from the embassy and he was flown to Miami, where he was convicted of drug trafficking.

He served 17 years and then was extradited in 2010 to France, where he had been convicted in absentia of laundering drug money through banks and using the cash to buy property in Paris.

Now back in his native Panama, Noriega's new home is a cell in El Renacer prison.

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