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Noriega, Once Imprisoned In Miami, To Be Extradited To Panama

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A court sketch made on September 7, 2011 at Paris courthouse shows Panama's former army general Manuel Noriega (R) during a hearing.  (Photo credit: BENOIT PEYRUCQ/AFP/Getty Images)

A court sketch made on September 7, 2011 at Paris courthouse shows Panama’s former army general Manuel Noriega (R) during a hearing. (Photo credit: BENOIT PEYRUCQ/AFP/Getty Images)

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PARIS (CBSMiami) — Former dictator Manuel Noriega, who spent 2 decades in a Miami federal prison after he was snatched from Panama by US military forces, is returning home to Panama.

A French court has approved Noriega’s extradition which allows him to return home for the first time since he was forced out in a U.S. military action more than two decades ago.

Panama sought Noriega’s extradition so that he can serve prison sentences handed down after he was convicted in absentia for embezzlement, corruption and murder.

Noriega, at one time a major US ally, was declared a criminal by the US in 1989, and once captured by US military forces, was tried and convicted of drug trafficking. He was treated as a prisoner of war at a federal prison in South Miami-Dade before his sentence ended, and he was extradited to France. There, he served for money laundering.

Noriega had said for years that he wanted to be returned to Panama, but US officials refused and French officials wanted him to face charges there. Now, Panama gets its chance to dispense justice.

There’s a chance that because of his age he may get to serve out his time under house arrest. Noriega is in his 70’s.

France’s prime minister, Francois Fillon, needs to sign an administrative decree allowing for Noriega to be transferred which could happen within days.

“God Bless you,” Noriega told the French appeals court that announced the extradition approval Wednesday. “God bless my family, God bless my enemies, God bless France.”

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