Manuel Noriega Returns To Panama As A Prisoner

Former dictator, Manuel Noriega, has returned to Panama as a prisoner.

Noriega, now 77, returned from a France extradition flight in a wheelchair surrounded by security.

The former general succumbed to U.S troops on January 3, 1990 during an invasion ordered by President George H.W. Bush called “Operation Just Cause”. He has since spent his years in a Miami prison for drug sentences and in France for a money-laundering conviction involving the Medellin cocaine cartel.

Now, he will begin serving three 20-year sentences in Panama for the 1980s killings of political opponents. Noriega’s vicious reign lasted from 1983 to 1989.

AP reports several protesters were angered at the fact that he was surrounded by security and had his face was covered in the airport.

"We are disappointed at the excessive security that kept us from seeing the prisoner," said Aurelio Barria, a member of the old opposition to Noriega, to TVN news. "Why not let him be seen? What are they hiding? We want to see him handcuffed in a cell".

When Noriega arrived at the Panama prison, protesters waited outside for him there, as well. They identified themselves as family members of Noriega’s victims.

One protester’s sign read, "Justice, Noriega, Killer," while another woman yelled "Die, you wretch! Now you're going to pay for your crimes."

Most Panamanians remained unmoved by the former dictator’s presence as they went along their ways holiday shopping.

"I don't think Noriega has anything hugely important to say," said retired Gen. Ruben Dario Paredes, who lead Panama's army before Noriega’s infamous 1980’s takeover. "The things he knows about have lost relevance, because the world has changed and the country has, as well."

"In politics, he won't have any great impact, because the people of Panama have other concerns," said Marco Gandasegui, a professor of sociology at Panama's Center for Latin American Studies.

Since the invasion and installation of democracy, Panama has seen four democratic presidents.

While serving time for his trafficking conviction, Noriega lived in his own bungalow with a TV and exercise equipment because he was once a prisoner of war.

But Noriega's cell at El Renacer in Panama, won’t be so accommodating.

Noriega "will be located in an individual cell, without luxuries and in similar conditions to the rest of the inmates," said Interior Ministry spokeswoman Vielka Pritsiolas .

Noriega's lawyers are requesting that he receive house arrest under a law that allows prisoners over 70 to serve out their sentences at home.

“He said as much in his hearing (in France), that he is coming to Panama to proclaim his innocence,” Noriega’s lawyer Julio Berrio told reporters in Panama.