Panama's Noriega back in jail after hospital stint

Posted at 10/13/12 9:00 AM

PANAMA CITY - Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega returned to his jail cell Friday following a nine-day stint in hospital, an official said.

The one-time CIA informant who was overthrown in a US invasion was taken to hospital on October 3 for urological exams just a few months after a bout with bronchitis kept him there for 20 days.

"He left hospital Friday and is back in El Renacer" prison, Interior Ministry spokesman Vielka Vernaza told AFP.

Noriega, 78, was extradited from France and jailed at El Renacer on December 11. He is serving three consecutive 20-year sentences for the disappearance of opponents during his years in power, from 1983 to 1989.

The former strongman has previously suffered two strokes, and has heart disease, prostate cancer and a benign brain tumor diagnosed as meningioma.

He has been hospitalized five times since his return from France, causing his relatives, doctors and defendants to request that he serve his sentence at home.

They argue that the prison where he is serving his time does not have the proper equipment to handle a worsening of his condition.

"We're surprised by the time it is taking authorities to approve the house arrest," said his doctor, Eduardo Reyes.

Reyes had said cardiac concerns were the cause for Noriega's latest hospitalization.

But penitentiary official Angel Calderon has said the authorities were not ready to take different measures so long as Noriega gets the medical care he needs.

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