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Panamanian Court Suspends Manuel Noriega’s Trial for Labor Unionist’s Disappearance

LADB Article ID: 79682
Category/Department: Panama
Date: 2015-06-25
By: Louisa Reynolds

On May 20, a local court suspended the trial of former dictator Manuel Noriega (1983-1989) for the disappearance of labor unionist Heliodoro Portugal on the grounds that Panama is not allowed to bring new cases against him under the agreement it reached with France for his extradition in 2011. The aging former strongman is already serving a 60-year prison sentence for human rights violations committed during his six-year rule. Born in 1933, Portugal was a member of the left-wing Movimiento de Unidad Revolucionaria (MUR) and had been on the military intelligence service’s radar since the 1960s. In May 1970, when Noriega was the head of Panama’s now defunct Guardia Nacional de Panama and the right-hand man to then dictator Omar Torrijos (1968-1981), Portugal was kidnapped by four G-2 (intelligence) agents and imprisoned in the Los Pumas army quarters. His body was found in 1999 outside an old military barracks near Panama City’s international airport. The court’s decision is hard to justify given that, in September 2014, the Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ) decided Noriega should face trial for the 1969 disappearance of Luis Antonio Quirós. Quirós was accused of deserting the Guardia Nacional and collaborating with guerrilla groups.

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