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Red Cross visits Noriega

Manuel Noriega on Friday received his first prison visit from the RedCross since the U.S. government agreed to treat the deposed Panamanian leader as a prisoner of war.

A doctor and a delegate from the International Committee of the Red Cross sought to ensure Noriega's treatment was in keeping with international norms, said Jean-Marc Bornet, the organization's chief delegate for Latin America.

Noriega was flown to the United States on Jan. 4 to face drug-trafficking charges.

The details of the Red Cross prison inspection were kept confidential, but generally the procedure follows a pattern, Bornet said.

"This first visit is a very traditional task," he said. "We first of all have a discussion with the manager of the camp or prison.

Then we visit all places of detention, we see the facilities, the cells, the kitchen."

After the tour and the talks with prison officials, the Red Cross meets with the prisoner, Bornet said.

"We have private talks, and it is very important that they be without witnesses," he said. "We speak only about the conditions of detention. It may be about food, about being allowed to go out, or to have contact with families, or about medical treatment."

There will be followup visits to Noriega, but there are no set intervals, and timing will depend on conditions at the prison, Bornet said.

Meanwhile, Noriega's attorney, Frank Rubino, filed a motion in federal court asking for the results of wiretaps he claims were made during the U.S. invasion of Panama.

"We have received information that while the general was in the Papal Nunciature, the U.S. Army tapped the telephone, and recorded all the conversations," Rubino said. The defense wants to listen to the tapes to see if they will help Noriega's case, possibly by showing he was falsely induced to surrender to U.S. authorities.

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