French court to hear Noriega appeal to be released from provisional detention

PARIS (AP) — A French court will hear an appeal by former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to be released from preventive detention, lawyers and a judge said Wednesday.

Noriega has been held at La Sante prison in southern Paris since April 27 following his extradition from the U.S. to face charges of laundering drug money.

French authorities say Noriega had laundered about $3 million in drug proceeds by buying luxury apartments in Paris. The 72-year-old Noriega could face 10 years in prison if convicted in France.

Noriega's lawyers and a French judge, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to media, said the appeal will be heard Friday.

The lawyers and the judge also said the dates for Noriega's trial on the money laundering charges have been set in a Paris court for June 28th, 29th and 30th.

Noriega is being held as a civilian after France declined to recognize his insistence that he be treated as a prisoner of war. The U.S. had considered Noriega a prisoner of war, but French authorities have said he does not qualify for that status here.

A U.S. judge had granted Noriega POW status in Miami, where he had been jailed since the U.S. invaded Panama to remove him in 1989. His French lawyers claim the status cannot be rescinded.

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