Manuel Noriega, Panama's drug-running military dictator of the 1980s, was taken from prison to a public hospital after suffering a possible stroke, the national police said on Sunday.

Noriega, 77, was moved from the El Renacer prison to the Hospital Santo Tomas because of high blood pressure and a possible stroke, police said in a statement. A police spokesman had no further details.

Noriega was extradited back to Panama in December and he is serving a 20-year sentence for the murders of opponents during his rule.

He has spent the past two decades in prison - first in the United States and then France - for drug trafficking and money laundering. Noriega was ousted from power in 1989 by an invading U.S. force.

The one-time CIA protégé returned to his homeland in a wheelchair, a diminished shadow of the man once known for waving a machete while delivering fiery speeches.

Noriega was tried and convicted in a Miami court in 1992 on eight counts of drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering stemming from his time in power in the strategically located Central American nation.

(Reporting By Sean Mattson; Editing by Bill Trott and Eric Beech)