A Paris court gave the final decision Wednesday to allow the extradition of former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega back to his home country, where he is wanted by authorities for crimes committed in the 1980s.
The ruling Wednesday comes after the United States agreed to his extradition from France. Noriega himself said he wants to return to Panama, even though he will probably face two 20 year sentences received in his absence.
“I want to return to Panama to prove my innocence in these procedures that were carried out in my absence and without legal assistance,” Noriega, 77, said Wednesday, according to AFP.
A lawyer for Noriega said he should be home in Panama for Christmas and may not have to serve time in prison due to his bad health.
Noriega, who ruled the country with an iron fist between 1983 and 1989, has spent the past two decades in prison in the United States and later in France.
At one time his government was backed by the CIA, which saw him as an ally against the Marxist Sandinista government that ruled neighboring Nicaragua. However, Noriega started doing business with Colombia’s Medellin drug cartel prompting U.S. intervention.He was arrested in Panama, taken to Miami, and sentenced there by a U.S. court for aiding drug cartels. In 2010 he was extradited to France where he was has been serving time for money laundering.