Noriega is jailed for 40 years

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The Independent Online
WASHINGTON - Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian dictator, drugs smuggler and CIA informer, is likely to spend the rest of his days in an American jail, writes John Lichfield. A judge in Miami yesterday dismissed a rambling three-hour claim of innocence by the 57-year-old general and sentenced him to spend 40 years in prison without parole on drugs and racketeering charges.

Judge William Hoeveler said, however, that he wished to consider further Noriega's claim that he is entitled to prisoner-of-war treatment because he was captured after the US military invasion of Panama in December 1989. He will announce his decision in 60 days.

Noriega was convicted in April, after a seven-month trial, on eight out of ten charges of allowing the Colombian Medellin cocaine cartel to use Panama as a base for shipping drugs to the US and laundering drugs profits. The former dictator did not speak during the trial itself but he prolonged yesterday's sentencing hearing with a three-hour address, in which he invoked God, Christopher Columbus and Socrates.

Noriega's lawyers are to appeal.