PANAMA CITY – Panama’s Supreme Court has confirmed that former dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega is to be tried for the murder of an opponent in 1969, a case that was initially dismissed five years ago.
In a statement released Thursday, the court said that a lower chamber had filed charges last month against Noriega for the alleged murder of opponent Luis Antonio Quiroz Morales who went missing after being detained by Noriega.
In addressing an appeal by the public prosecutor’s office against the case’s earlier dismissal, the lower court said there was evidence that placed Noriega in the location where Quiroz was last seen alive.
This evidence, the court argued, indicates “physical presence and opportunity.”
According to the case file, on Aug. 19, 1969, Noriega, then a commander in the Panama National Guard, accompanied by other officers, arrived “in a jeep at Luis Antonio Quiroz Morales’s residence, put him in the vehicle and since then nothing is known of his whereabouts so he is presumed dead.”
Quiroz Morales, the court said, “was accused of collaborating with suspected guerrillas.”
It is now up to the Superior Court of the Third Judicial District to set the schedule for legal procedures and the eventual murder trial.
Noriega’s defense will be presented by attorney Gisela Vega, the Supreme Court said.
After his ouster as Panama’s leader in a U.S. invasion in 1989, Noriega has served prison terms in the United States and in France for drug trafficking and money laundering.
He is currently in a Panamanian prison serving a 60-year sentence for human rights violations.
There are at least two more trials pending against Noriega for the disappearances and deaths of opponents between 1968 and 1989.