Some of Manuel Noriega's taped prison conversations were in code, including passages in which the deposed Panamanian dictator apparently discussed frozen funds, court transcripts show.
Many of the conversations included in transcripts released by a federal judge Thursday dealt with family affairs, but some apparently involved money transfers and others showed Noriega followed Panamanian politics after he was ousted during a U.S. invasion in December 1989. Among the apparently coded calls was one by Noriega to the Cuban Embassy in Panama.The government tapes, some of which were broadcast by CNN last month, triggered a battle pitting freedom of the press against Noriega's right to a fair trial.
After first ordering CNN to halt the broadcasts, U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler ruled last week that the tapes were harmless to Noriega's defense, and allowed the network to resume the broadcasts.
This week, the judge agreed to a request by media organizations to release court transcripts of the tapes, over the objections of CNN. The network dropped its objections Wednesday.
In one transcript, Norma Amado, mother of Noriega's mistress, talked in apparent code with him about why "the man" had not arrived. The conversation appeared to be about frozen funds.
Amado said the man would go elsewhere because "it's not frozen there . . . since we are all frozen here and over there it wouldn't be a problem."