WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday signed off on the extradition of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to France, clearing the way for him to stand trial there on money laundering charges.
Clinton signed a so-called "surrender warrant" for Noriega after a federal judge in Miami lifted a stay blocking the extradition last month, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
The move cleared the last hurdle to Noriega's extradition and one of his French lawyers, Yves Leberquier, said he would be on an overnight flight to Paris.
"When he arrives he will be presented to the prosecutor and notified of the arrest warrant, and he will confirm his opposition" to the warrant, Leberquier said.
"After that, at some point Tuesday, Noriega will be presented to a Paris judge who will determine whether he should stay in custody pending further action. Leberquier said Noriega's lawyers will push for that hearing to be open "so that the defense can be totally transparent."
Noriega was ousted as Panama's leader and put on trial following a 1989 U.S. invasion that drove him from power. He was convicted of drug racketeering and related charges in 1992. His sentence ended in 2007, but France requested Noriega's extradition shortly before his U.S. drug trafficking sentence ended on Sept. 9, 2007.
The French claim that Noriega laundered some $3 million in drug proceeds by purchasing luxury apartments in Paris. Noriega was convicted in absentia, but France agreed to give him a new trial if extradited.
Federal judges and the U.S. Supreme Court turned away Noriega's claims that the Geneva Conventions treaties regarding prisoners of war require him to be returned to Panama. Noriega was declared a POW after his 1992 drug conviction by a Miami federal judge.