Supreme Court Will Not Stop Noriega From Being Sent to France

WASHINGTON -- Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega lost what is likely his last chance to avoid further prison time when the Supreme Court announced Monday it will not hear his appeal.

The decision likely means the former strongman will soon be handed over to French authorities. Noriega faces money laundering charges in France and, if convicted, could spend another 10 years behind bars.

Though the majority on the court rejected the appeal without comment, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote to say that he wanted to hear the case -- though not out of any particular sympathy for Noriega. Thomas wrote that he wanted to help clarify what has been a somewhat messy aftermath of the high court's 2008 decision that gave detainees at Guantanamo Bay the right to challenge their detentions in American courts.

Thomas was joined by Justice Antonin Scalia to say that taking the case and addressing issues over the detainees "will spare detainees and the government years of unnecessary litigation."

They contended that Noriega's case would have given the court an opportunity to rule on that issue in a case uncomplicated by military commissions, classified information or the "extraterritorial detention" of the detainees.

Noriega, 75, was scooped up by the U.S. military in 1989 and was convicted for his role as a major international drug trafficker. Noriega was eligible for release in 2007, but he has remained locked up in the United State while fighting extradition. He wants to return to his home country where he also faces numerous charges including murder, but his advanced age means any sentence in Panama will likely be served under house arrest.

Noriega claimed that under terms of the Geneva Conventions the United States is required to send him home. But lower courts ruled the treaty doesn't force that requirement on the government.