Published: Jul 07, 2010 1:48 PM EDT
Updated: Jul 07, 2010 10:49 AM EDT

PARIS (AP) - A Paris court on Wednesday convicted former

Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega of laundering drug money in

France in the 1980s and ordered him to spend seven years behind

bars - a sentence that comes on top of his two decades already

spent in a U.S. prison.

The three-judge panel also ordered the seizure of euro2.3 million

($2.89 million) that has long been frozen in Noriega's accounts.

Noriega, who gives his age as 76, was deposed after a 1989 U.S.

invasion and went on to serve 20 years in a Florida prison for drug

trafficking. He was extradited to France in April to stand trial on

accusations related to his assets here.

The prosecution argued that millions of dollars that passed

through Noriega's French accounts during the late 1980s were

kickbacks from the powerful Medellin cocaine cartel.

His lawyers had pressed for an acquittal, saying the trial was

part of a political plot against him and arguing that Noriega's age

and poor health mean he would certainly die behind bars if

convicted.

Noriega has blood pressure problems and is paralyzed on the left

side following a stroke, his lawyers say. There has long been

confusion about his true date of birth.

In court, Noriega portrayed himself as a foe of drug traffickers

and said the money in his French accounts came from personal and

family businesses. He also said some of it was payments from the

CIA.

Noriega had long been considered an important CIA asset before

he joined forces with drug traffickers and was implicated in the

death of a political opponent.

His lawyers suggested his U.S. conviction was part of a strategy

to keep Noriega silent after his relationship with the CIA went

bad.

In an energetic hour-long monologue in court last week, Noriega

said his problems began when he refused to cooperate in a U.S. plan

aimed at ousting the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua in

the 1980s. He also blamed the U.S. for a "conspiracy" that has

kept him behind bars for 20 years.

France already convicted Noriega and his wife in absentia in

1999 for laundering cocaine profits through three major French

banks and using drug cash to invest in three luxurious Paris

apartments on the Left Bank. He was granted a retrial.

Noriega is being held at the La Sante prison in southern Paris.

His lawyers say the prison is squalid and unfit for a man of his

age and rank. France has refused to grant him prisoner of war

status, which he had in the U.S.

Behind bars in Miami, Noriega had perks including the right to

wear his military uniform and insignia. In France, he is not

allowed to wear his trademark uniform and has showed up in court in

an ordinary suit.

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