PANAMA CITY – Panamanian authorities authorized house arrest for former dictator Manuel Noriega, who has been held in a Panamanian prison since December 2011, a move that will become effective before he undergoes brain surgery, his attorney Ezra Angel told EFE on Monday.
The measure was approved by the 2nd Criminal Court of the Panamanian Supreme Court after the former dictator’s physicians recommended it, Angel said, adding that it will become effective once the date for Noriega’s surgery for a benign brain tumor is established, which could occur “in the near term.”
The octogenarian ex-strongman was going to undergo surgery last July for the tumor, but the operation was postponed because the defense argued that a preoperative protocol had not been complied with and an adequate postoperative regimen for the patient had not yet been established, given that Noriega is suffering from multiple health complications due to his advanced age.
Noriega, who is being held in the El Renacer prison on the outskirts of Panama City, must be “stabilized to be able to set the date” for the surgery, his lawyer told EFE on Monday.
Doctors and high court justices “are going to set a preliminary period” for the operation, given the high risk for Noriega, “so that he can go into house arrest,” he added.
The high court last September ordered El Renacer to coordinate with Santo Tomas Hospital “whatever is necessary for (his) admittance” and with the National Police “for the transfer and custody” of Noriega in the medical facility.
The Supreme Court said at the time that “despite the fact that (Noriega’s) defense requested ... house arrest, this Court felt it was necessary to have him in a hospital to guarantee his special care due to the state of his health, without neglecting the necessary monitoring and protection.”
Once Noriega undergoes the operation and recovers he must return to prison, the court said last October.
Noriega suffers from urological and neurological problems resulting from a stroke and every two months he must undergo medical checkups.
He is currently serving a 60-year prison sentence on charges ranging from murder to environmental crimes, as imposed by Panamanian courts.
Noriega, who governed from 1983-1989, returned to Panama in December 2011 after serving 21 years in US and French prisons for drug trafficking and money laundering.