A skeptical panel of federal appeals judges questioned Wednesday whether former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega has any legal right to challenge his proposed extradition to France to face money laundering charges.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges cast doubt at a hearing on claims by Noriega's lawyers that the Geneva Conventions treaties regarding prisoners of war require Noriega be returned to Panama because his sentence for drug racketeering ended in September 2007.
U.S. Circuit Judge Ed Carnes repeatedly asked Noriega attorney Jonathan May whether Congress eliminated the legal underpinnings of Noriega's argument when it passed the 2006 Military Commissions Act. The law created judicial procedures for enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but also could be applied to POWs and anyone else, the judges said.
"Do you disagree with the plain meaning of that language, or what?" Carnes said. "You're using the Geneva Conventions as a source of your client's right ... (the law) says you can't."
May said that was an incorrect interpretation of what Congress sought to do. He insisted the law was meant to apply solely to court proceedings, not an executive branch matter such as extradition.