Noriega flown home to face prison for regime murders

Manuel Noriega, Panama’s drug-running military dictator of the 1980s, was flown back to his home country from France yesterday, headed for prison to serve a 20-year term for the murders of opponents during his rule.

Noriega, now 77, was toppled in a US invasion of Panama in 1989 and has spent the last two decades behind bars, first in Florida and then in France after being convicted for drug trafficking and money laundering during his time in power.

Noriega’s return is unlikely to have a major political impact on a country that has enjoyed an economic boom in recent years. He was widely reviled as Panama’s de facto leader from 1983 until 1989, and his remaining supporters have kept a low profile. Even opponents dismiss him as part of a shadowy past.

Noriega was convicted in absentia in three cases involving 11 murders, including the execution-style slaying of nine officers who staged a failed coup.

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