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Noriega goes on trial in France


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PARIS – As Manuel Noriega went on trial in France for money laundering, the former Panamanian dictator was not allowed to wear his trademark military fatigues and appeared confused about the most basic of biographical information: his age.Noriega took the stand only briefly yesterday to give his name and age, but the 76-year-old appeared feeble, his shoulders trembling uncontrollably as he addressed the three-judge panel.Noriega’s lawyers, meanwhile, complained about dirty, dilapidated conditions in the prison where he is being held. The former military strongman, who spent 20 years in United States custody for drug trafficking after being deposed in the 1989 invasion of his country, could return to prison for ten years if he is convicted as charged in France.Noriega listened impassively to the proceedings through a translator, had his hair slicked back and wore a dark suit and red tie. He is not permitted to wear his military uniform in France since he is not being treated as a prisoner of war here – an issue hotly contested by his lawyers.Noriega’s three daughters were there to support him, and they huddled around the defendant’s box – a wooden perimeter topped with a roof of metal fencing – during a break in the proceedings.Asked how Noriega was dealing with the latest legal battle, one of his daughters, Sandra Noriega, suggested her father was resigned.“He’s going through all this because he has no choice,” she told The Associated Press. “Really, he’s looking forward to expressing his point of view and giving his version” of things tomorrow.The former dictator started his brief testimony with a stumble, when he was asked about discrepancies in his date of birth on different legal documents. Speaking through a translator, Noriega initially said February 11, 1936, then immediately corrected himself, saying he was born in 1934. There has long been confusion surrounding Noriega’s true date of birth. (AP)

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