PANAMA CITY – Panama is awaiting the arrival Sunday of former strongman Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, who was extradited from France and will be taken immediately to prison to serve the sentences handed down to him on various convictions.
“Our priority is his security,” Foreign Minister Roberto Henriquez said.
Noriega is scheduled to arrive aboard an Iberia Airlines flight from Madrid at Tocumen international airport, located about 27 kilometers (17 miles) east of Panama City.
The former strongman arrived in Madrid at 9:50 a.m. on an Iberia flight from Paris with six Interpol agents and his personal physician.
The Iberia flight from Madrid to Panama City was delayed for nearly 80 minutes, but the carrier did not say why.
Noriega will be handed over to prison officials as soon as he arrives in Panama.
The former general will be taken to El Renacer, a maximum-security prison located in a jungle area on the shores of the Panama Canal.
The area where the prison is located was controlled by the United States during Noriega’s time in power from 1983 to 1989.
It is not known whether Noriega will make any statements to the press on arrival at El Renacer, where numerous television satellite trucks and reporters are camped out, Henriquez said.
“It’s a very long trip, especially for Noriega, who is a person age 77,” Henriquez said.
Noriega, according to Panamanian officials, must serve six sentences totaling 67 years.
The former strongman was found guilty of the murders of guerrilla physician Hugo Spadafora and Maj. Moises Giroldi, the Albrook massacre, depriving Maj. Humberto Macea of his freedom, corruption and embezzlement.
Noriega asked to be extradited to Panama to face the charges against him.
Under Panamanian law, prisoners age 70 or older can be allowed to serve their sentences under house arrest.
Noriega served 20 years in prison in the United States on drug trafficking charges before being extradited to France in 2010, where he was sentenced to seven years behind bars for money laundering.
The former strongman surrendered on Jan. 3, 1990, to the U.S. troops who had invaded Panama the previous month, ending the military dictatorship established in 1968 by Gen. Omar Torrijos (1929-1981).