PARIS — Former military strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega was flown home to Panama on Sunday to be punished once again for crimes he committed during a career that saw him transformed from a close Cold War ally of Washington to the vilified target of a U.S. invasion.
Noriega left the Paris-Orly Airport on Spain's Iberia airlines, delivered directly to the aircraft by a four-car convoy and motorcycles that escorted him from the French capital's La Sante prison.
The French Justice Ministry said France turned Noriega over to Panamanian officials Sunday in accordance with extradition proceedings. It was the only official remark.
Noriega's return comes after more than 20 years in U.S. and French prisons for drug trafficking and money laundering. Panama convicted him during his captivity for the slayings of two political opponents in the 1980s.
Many Panamanians still want to see the man who stole elections and dispatched squads of thugs to beat opponents bloody in the streets pay his debt at home.
"Noriega was responsible for the invasion and those who died in the operation. He dishonored his uniform; there was barely a shot, and he went off to hide. He must pay," said Hatuey Castro, 82, a member of the anti-Noriega opposition who was detained and beaten by the strongman's thugs in 1989.