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Ex-Panama dictator Noriega to be freed from US prison in September

[JURIST] Ex-Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega [Wikipedia backgrounder], who has spent the last 17 years in US custody, including 15 years in federal prison on drug trafficking and racketeering charges, is to be released on September 9, 2007 [official release date], according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons [official website]. Noriega, a former US ally who ruled Panama as a military dictator for six years, was ousted by US troops in 1989 [BBC report]. After going into self-exile in Panama City, he was flushed out by US troops in 1990, surrendered and was taken to Miami, where he was put on trial. His initial sentence of 40 years in prison was later reduced to 30 years [New York Times report] after he persuaded officials that he helped promote US interests in Latin America during the Cold War.

Although Noriega's lawyer has said the ex-leader wishes to return to his family in Panama after release, he faces additional charges in both Panama and France, where he and his wife were sentenced in absentia [AP report] to ten years in jail for money laundering in 1999. In 2001, a Panama judge convicted Noriega of corruption [AP report], bringing his sentence time in that country to 90 years, following a previous conviction in 1995 for conspiracy to commit murder, which prompted calls for his extradition back to Panama [BBC report]. Noriega hopes to challenge the murder charge after his release this year. Reuters has more.

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