PANAMA CITY – Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega will face trial from May 21 for the disappearance in 1970 and subsequent death of leftist leader Heliodoro Portugal, the Supreme Court of Panama announced Monday.
In 2010 the Court began investigating Noriega, imprisoned since 2011 for human rights violations committed while president (1983-1989), for his role in Portugal’s case.
At the time, Noriega was chief of the now defunct National Guard and right hand man of then dictator Omar Torrijos (1968-1981).
Portugal was arrested by the army in Panama City in May 1970 and his body recovered from the vicinity of a former military barracks close to Tocumen International Airport in the Panamanian capital in September 1999.
Noriega, 81, is already serving 60 years in El Renacer prison on the outskirts of the capital, where he has been since his extradition from France in 2011.
The former dictator, deposed and captured during a U.S. invasion in 1989, has been in jail ever since, first in the United States for drug trafficking, then in France for money laundering, before returning to Panama.
Since his extradition, Noriega has been admitted to hospital several times with respiratory difficulties and hypertension.
His family and lawyers have repeatedly requested that he be granted house arrest, but to date their requests have been ignored.
Noriega will also go to trial on September 3 for the murder of another leftist, Luis Antonio Quiros, who disappeared in 1969.