December 11, 2011- After decades away serving prison sentences in the United States and France, Manuel Noriega will return Sunday to Panama. Nevertheless, he is still not a free man, as he will begin a 20-year prison term in his own country for the murders he committed while a military dictator during the 1980s.
Noriega is 77 today but was just in his mid 50s when his dictatorship was toppled by the U.S. in 1989. He was convicted for money laundering and drug trafficking while in power in Panama.
The current attorney general in Panama is accompanying the ex-dictator on his return flight from France. His flight is due to land in Panama sometime early evening. His return should not have too much of an impact politically in Panama. The country has enjoyed an economic boom recently.
His few supporters maintain low profiles in the country, while his opponents have dismissed him as part of a shadowy yet distant past. He was convicted in absentia of three homicide cases totally more than 33 victims. One of those victims was Hugo Spadafora, a doctor who was be-headed because he threatened to unveil the drug ties Noriega had.
Noriega will serve his 20-year sentence in a special unit of a penitentiary close to the Panama Canal that is surrounded by rainforest.
Noriega is eligible for house arrest due to his advanced age but that decision remains in the hands of the government.