Ousted Panamanian strongman Gen. Manuel Noriega told a federal court Friday that the U.S. government was trying to deny him a fair trial and his lawyers filed a petition asking that charges against him be dropped.
"When I was brought to the United States by the Army of the United States in a U.S. Army airplane I mistakenly believed that I was going to receive a fair trial," Noriega told U.S. District Judge William Hoe-veler in his first public comments since turning himself after last December's invasion.His four lawyers, led by Frank Ru-bino, filed a motion asking that drug trafficking and money-laundering charges against him be dropped in part because privileged phone calls from his jail cell with his attorneys had been secretly taped.
Cable News Network last week broadcast some of Noriega's jail-house conversations and, faced with a contempt citation by Hoeveler, Thursday asked the Supreme Court to rule on the issue.
Wearing Panamanian general's epaulettes and speaking Spanish, Noriega made only a passing mention of the tape recordings. He also spoke of conflict over the lawyers' fees and his overall treatment at the hands of the U.S. government.
Noriega said that if he was forced to rely on court-appointed attorneys with limited resources it would be like "having lawyers arming themselves with hand weapons against a prosecutor's office which possesses nuclear weapons . . . and this is what they are calling a fair battle."
Noriega, who referred to himself as both a political prisoner and a prisoner of war, also implied that he had secrets that could be damaging to the government.
"I realize that this case has implications the highest levels of the United States government, including the White House, and I also realize that there are many interests working" beyond the court's control, he told Hoeveler.