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Manuel Noriega, infamous dictator toppled by US army, dies aged 83

Noriega ruled the Central American country of Panama between 1983 and 1989 before being deposed by a US military invasion.

noriega Noriega, pictured at a rally in Santiago, Panama, in 1989 Source: TNS/ABACA

PANAMA’S FORMER DICTATOR Manuel Antonio Noriega died late last night it has been confirmed.

Noriega, who ruled the Central American country for six years between 1983 and 1989, was physically diminished after decades of imprisonment for crimes committed during that rule.

83-year-old Noriega passed away in the Panama City public Santo Tomas hospital where he had been recovering from surgery in early March to remove a brain tumour, and a subsequent operation to clean up cerebral bleeding.

Obit Manuel Noriega Noriega's mugshot from January 1990 Source: AP/PA Images

The announcement of his death was made by government communications secretary Manuel Dominguez.

“Mr. Noriega died tonight,” Dominguez told AFP.

Noriega had been serving prison time for murder and forced disappearances during his dictatorship, and was being held in a prison cell overlooking the Panama Canal.

The ex-strongman had been granted temporary release on 28 February to undergo the medical procedure.

Following years of ill-health that included respiratory problems, prostate cancer and depression, Noriega’s family pleaded with authorities to him to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest.

Panama Noriega Obit Noriega, pictured in August 1989 Source: Matias Recart

But the government rejected their appeals, and said Noriega would return to prison once he recovered from surgery.

Noriega was toppled in a December 1989 US military invasion.

After surrendering to US troops in January 1990, he was flown to the United States where he was convicted on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, and sentenced to prison.

In 2010 Noriega was sent to France, where he was convicted on money laundering charges.

The following year he was extradited to Panama, where he was locked up for the 1985 murder of a political opponent, the 1989 murder of a military officer who attempted a coup against him, and for the massacre of soldiers rebelling against him.

Other cases were pending against him for the disappearance of people before he became dictator, back when he headed Panama’s National Guard.

In 2015, Noriega had apologised “to anybody who felt offended, affected, prejudiced or humiliated by my actions”.

© – AFP, 2017 

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