Esteban Felix, Associated Press
FILE - This Dec. 11, 2011 file photo, shows Panama's former strongman Manuel Noriega gesturing while being carried in a wheelchair by a police officer inside El Renacer prison, on the outskirts of Panama City. A police statement issued Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012 says Noriega was taken from the El Renacer prison to Santo Tomas hospital after he had high blood pressure and apparently a brain hemorrhage. Noriega returned to Panama on Dec. 11 and is serving three 20-year sentences for the killings of political opponents in the 1980s.

PANAMA CITY — Doctors in Panama say former dictator Manuel Noriega is "stable" after being hospitalized for extreme hypertension.

Health Minister Franklin Vergara says Noriega is "conscious and well oriented," and will be kept for 48 hours for observation at Panama City's public Santo Tomas hospital.

Vergara said in a statement Monday that officials plan to return Noriega to the El Renacer prison after the observation period.

Noriega was toppled by a 1989 U.S. invasion and served a drug sentence in a U.S. prison.

He was returned on Dec. 11 from France to serve a combined 60-year Panamanian prison sentence for murder, embezzlement and corruption.

The 77-year-old Noriega was transferred from prison to a hospital on Sunday.