Doctors: Manuela Noriega has benign brain tumor

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Associated Press

Posted on March 14, 2012 at 3:02 AM

PANAMA CITY (AP) — Doctors in Panama said Tuesday that former dictator Manuel Noriega has a benign brain tumor, a possible heart condition and other ailments that raise the risk of him dying in prison.

A team of private doctors hired by Noriega's family said in a press conference that the penitentiary where the 78-year-old Noriega is being held lacks the medical facilities to treat him in case of an emergency.

Lawyers for the former strongman are seeking to have him serve out his 60-year sentence in a hospital or under house arrest, but the doctors said this decision depends on an evaluation by Panama's Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences.

Neither authorities at the prison where he is being held, nor the hospital where he has been treated in the past, were immediately available for comment.

"From the start of our meetings with the team of lawyers, we have given them all the elements emphasizing that (Noriega) is a high-risk patient and that his confinement where conditions are not in place increase the possibilities of his premature death," said Eduardo Reyes, one of the four medical experts in the news conference.

In early February, Noriega was transferred from prison to a hospital because of extreme hypertension. He was later returned to the penitentiary.

Noriega was toppled by a 1989 U.S. invasion and served 17 years in a U.S. prison for drug trafficking. He was later convicted in France of money laundering.

France sent him home on Dec. 11 to serve a combined 60-year Panamanian prison sentence on murder, embezzlement and corruption charges.

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