March 21, 2012 / 7:27 PM / 7 years ago

Noriega in Panama hospital, lawyer says has brain tumor

Panama's former dictator Manuel Noriega is seen next to police officers upon his arrival at Renacer prison, outside Panama City December 11, 2011. REUTERS/Henry Romero

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, serving a 20-year jail sentence in Panama, was hospitalized on Wednesday for what authorities say was a routine check-up though his attorney says he has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“He will undergo several routine exams,” Angel Calderon, head of Panama’s jail system told Reuters, adding that Noriega suffered a bout of flu last week.

But the former strongman’s lawyer said Noriega’s health has deteriorated due to poor treatment in jail for flu and fever, and a brain tumor recently detected by his doctors.

“His health is getting worse, but our request to keep him in hospital has been delayed,” lawyer Julio Berrios said.

The 78-year-old Noriega, once Panama’s drug-running military ruler, is serving a two-decade sentence in his native country for crimes committed during his 1983-1989 rule, including the killing of political opponents.

He was ousted in a U.S. invasion in 1989 after his once-cozy relationship with Washington soured over his ties to Colombian cocaine traffickers. He has spent the last twenty years behind bars, first in Florida and then in France, after being convicted for drug trafficking and money laundering.

Noriega was extradited back to Panama in December and last month he was taken from prison to a public hospital after fainting from high blood pressure.

Reporting by Elida Moreno; Editing by Anthony Boadle

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