A federal judge Wednesday lifted his ban against Cable News Network's broadcast of Manuel Noriega's prison phone calls to his legal team.
The ban on CNN's use of the tape had sparked a fierce constitutional debate, pitting the right of free speech against the right to a fair trial."The tapes may be published as CNN wishes to publish them," said U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler during a morning hearing.
Noriega's attorney Frank Rubino said he no longer had any objection to CNN's use of the tapes. The only tape he challenged was a conversation between Noriega and his defense team which had already been broadcast by CNN.
"It does no good to close the barn door after the horse is out," Rubino said Wednesday.
The judge also ordered the federal Bureau of Prisons to stop its practice of sharing tape-recorded conversations in the Noriega case with other government agencies.
Hoeveler last month temporarily barred CNN from using parts of taped conversations between Noriega and his attorneys, who said airing the tapes would destroy the ousted Panamanian dictator's defense against drug charges.
CNN broadcast some tapes, including a conversation between Noriega and Rubino's secretary, who acted as a translator for Rubino's investigator.
An appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to lift the order, and CNN last week turned over the tapes it had obtained to Hoeveler for review.
In Atlanta, CNN spokesman Steve Haworth said it was doubtful that CNN would broadcast any of the tapes Wednesday.