U.S. Extradites Noriega To France
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
NPR's Greg Allen joins us now from Miami. And Greg, explain what led up to this extradition today.
GREG ALLEN: Noriega's lawyers, though, at the same time fought that extradition, all the time trying to stop his movement to France.
BLOCK: And what was their argument in fighting the extradition?
ALLEN: The U.S. never bought that argument. Noriega's lawyers took it to an appeals court, they upheld the U.S. argument, and then the U.S. Supreme Court, just last month, refused to rehear the request so that cleared the way for the extradition and that's where we are today.
BLOCK: And Greg, why today for the extradition? Do we know?
ALLEN: No, we don't, Melissa. I mean, it's one of these things that comes along. We knew it was going to happen in a matter of days, weeks. But it's still happened in a way to catch many of us by surprise. Even Noriega's lawyers said that they had no idea it was coming and they were a little bit taken aback at the swiftness by which it happened. But we understand that today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed the extradition documents which cleared the way for his release. And very shortly, afterward, federal marshals took Noriega from his cell, led him shackled to board an Air France jet, which was bound for France. And he'll be going tomorrow, we understand, before a French judge who will then determine what happens next, where he's going to be held, under what conditions.
BLOCK: And so that's the end of this chapter of Manuel Noriega's long relationship with the United States.
ALLEN: Yes. And it's kind of an anticlimactic end to what's been a very long and tumultuous relationship. We recall that he started out here as a young man, as a military man being trained at some U.S. military facilities here, then, of course, his rise in Panama as a - becoming general. He was a - served as a CIA informant for quite some time. And then, of course, the drama that surrounded his - the invasion of Panama on 1989, his - there's a manhunt for him then he was - had a standoff at the Vatican embassy. He recalled a loud music that was played, the complaints. He's finally - and finally, his capture by U.S. authorities. They brought him back to Miami where he stood trial on drug trafficking charges. And he got a sentence of 30 years, he only served 17 years of the sentence, though, getting some time off for good behavior.
BLOCK: Okay, Greg. Thank you very much.
ALLEN: You're welcome.
BLOCK: That's NPR's Greg Allen in Miami with news that the former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was extradited today to stand trial in France.
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