Two months after he was extradited from the United States, Panama's ex-dictator Manuel Noriega will stand trial in Paris on Monday on charges of laundering Colombian drug money in French banks.
The 76-year-old general, who ruled Panama from 1981 to 1989, was flown to Paris from Miami in late April on an international arrest warrant following his conviction in absentia in France in 1999.
Noriega and his wife Felicidad were sentenced in France to 10 years in prison but for years the ex-leader had fought extradition from his prison cell in Miami until a US Supreme Court ruling in March quashed his last appeal.
Dubbed "Pineapple Face", the pock-marked general is facing a retrial on charges of laundering 2.3 million euros (15 million francs at the time, 2.8 million dollars) from the Medellin cocaine cartel through the now defunct BCCI bank.
The money funnelled in the late 1980s was allegedly used by his wife and a shell company to buy three luxury apartments in Paris that have since been seized by the French state.
Now looking frail after two decades in a US jail, Noriega denies taking money from the cocaine dealers and claims the funds were from his brother's inheritance, his wife's fortune and payments made to him by the CIA.
"I would like to say that I disagree with the accusations being laid against me," Noriega told the court in Spanish during his first appearance in April.
Wearing a grey cap, the once-feared leader invoked his immunity as a former head of state and also spoke of his failing health: he suffers from partial paralysis and high blood pressure.
Since Noriega's extradition to France on April 27, his lawyers have lodged several appeals for his release pending trial, which have been repeatedly turned down, with judges citing a flight risk.
Panama has asked France to hand him over to face trial for human rights atrocities in his home country, but Paris has said that will not happen before the case against him in France has run its course.
The general's lawyers have appealed to the Red Cross, arguing that their client is being held in inhumane conditions at Paris' La Sante prison, deprived of his uniform, his medals and without access to a Spanish-speaking doctor.
The trial will last just three days and a verdict is not expected for several months.
Once a prized CIA asset, Noriega fell out with Washington in the late 1980s amid reports that he had become deeply involved in drug trafficking and suspicions that he was collaborating with communist Cuba.
In December 1989, then US president George H. Bush ordered that Noriega be captured to face trial in the United States, sending troops to invade Panama in Operation Just Cause.
After Noriega sought refuge in the Vatican embassy, US troops surrounded the building, blasting heavy metal music to wear down his resistance.
A 10-day standoff ended on January 2, 1990, when Noriega walked out of the embassy and surrendered to US forces who flew him to Miami in Florida.
Convicted on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering, Noriega was sentenced to 40 years in prison. That sentence was reduced to 17 years for good behaviour.