The Islamic Post Blog

General Noriega May Be ‘Too Late’ to Benefit from Prisoner of War Status by Khalida
February 2, 2009, 11:02 am
Filed under: February Volume I- 2009, Latino/Caribe | Tags: ,

With the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Manuel Noriega may no longer be exempt from extradition to France for prosecution.

By Mubeen Khaleel

Islamic Post Staff Writer

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not issue an immediate ruling this month in the case of Panamanian General Manuel Noriega –the only person with prisoner of war (POW) status being held on United States’ soil– who is fighting extradition to France for a 10 year additional sentence related to money laundering charges.
Mr. Noriega will remain imprisoned in the United States, until the appeals process is exhausted, although the final decision in the case rests with the U.S. State Department. Noriega’s attorneys hope the hearings will, nevertheless, reach the Supreme Court.
Appeals court judges drew the likely parallel between General Noriega and the men being held in Bagram Air Base, in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Congress “eliminated the legal underpinnings of Noriega’s argument when it passed the 2006 Military Commissions Act,” wrote AP Legal Affairs Writer, Curt Anderson about the judge’s statement. “The law created judicial procedures for enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but also could be applied to POWs and anyone else.” In effect, when Noriega first presented his case in September 2007, it was too late for him to take advantage of the POW status previously awarded him.
It is the fourth time the general has sought to halt the extradition proceedings since he completed his sentence for drug racketeering in September 2007. His attorneys insists that, according to the Geneva Convention, Noriega should be repatriated to Panama. Like France, Panama is also seeking his extradition after convicting him (in absentia) of murder, embezzlement, and corruption. His sentence of 60 years imprisonment may, however, be served in his native country under house arrest.
Conditions in the United States are reported to also have a home-like environment for those classified as POWs, unlike those being held at Guantanamo Bay as enemy combatants. “General Manuel Antonio Noriega frequently sees his wife and children, who make the trip to his private bungalow at a federal prison near Miami, from their home in Panama,” reported the Associated Press earlier this month. “The onetime CIA operative is a news junkie, reads voraciously about history and politics, and is working on a memoir.”
After being on the payroll of the Central Intelligence Agency for the better part of thirty years, Manuel Noriega was arrested after the U.S. military invasion of Panama in 1989 by George H.W. Bush, Sr., on the premise that, according to Anderson, “Noriega had become increasingly belligerent toward the U.S., ignored democratic election results and essentially turned Panama into a way station and banker for Colombia’s powerful Medellin cocaine cartel… Noriega [however], who declined repeated interview requests, has said he believes his ouster was rooted in his refusal to help the U.S. support the Contras attempting to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist government in the 1980s.”


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