Former dictator Manuel Noriega will be flown back to Panama from France on Sunday, marking the first time that the convicted criminal has returned to his homeland in twenty years.
The 77-year-old Noriega once ruled the country with an iron fist, but he returns to spend what could be the rest of his life behind iron bars. He has been convicted in absentia for corruption and murder and faces two 20-year prison sentences for the execution of army officer Moises Giroldi after his failed coup d'etat and the murder of Hugo Spadafora, a former political opponent.
Once back in Panama, Noriega will also stand trial for a number of abuses committed during his six year rule from 1983 to 1989. But before he can be extradited from France, a medical examiner will see if Noriega is fit enough to return home.
Noriega has already served a 20-year jail term in Miami for drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering. In 2010, he was extradited from the United States to France where he was wanted on further money laundering charges. He was convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail and $3.6 million in assets was seized.
At first, France denied Panama's extradition requests when asked earlier this year, but the supreme court ordered Noriega's conditional release.
Panamanian authorities are preparing for the arrival of the controversial and much-hated figure. Anti-Noriega protests have already started. Additionally, state officials fear that he could be attacked in prison.
We have to be ready for all the possibilities in all aspects. Noriega inspires very big emotions, and Noriega's life could very well be at risk in Panama, Foreign Minister Roberto Henriquez told CNN.
Noriega has some friends who still follow him. But also a large majority of the Panamanian people resent his behavior. They are already mobilizing in Panama, he said.
When he first rose to power, Noriega was an ally of the United States. However, President George Bush ordered U.S. troops to invade the country in 1989 to remove Noriega from power because the dictator had endangered American citizens through drug trafficking.