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Prosecution Says Defense Padded Drug Exhibits

March 17, 1992

MIAMI (AP) _ Manuel Noriega’s defense padded jury exhibits with misleading documents, a federal drug agent testified Tuesday in the ousted Panamanian leader’s drug and racketeering trial.

Some documents given to jurors as if they had been reported by Noriega’s police to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration actually were never given to the DEA, agent Charles Vopat testified.

Another DEA agent had testified some defense documents appeared to come from Panamanian military records captured during the U.S. invasion of Panama in December 1989.

The seized records showed Panama’s police kept track of alleged drug traffickers linked to Noriega, but Vopat said his office never received that information.

The defense, which stressed Noriega’s cooperation with the DEA, mixed the seized documents with agency files to make it appear the DEA received them together from Panamanian police, the witness said.

With the trial winding down, prosecutors sought to shore up their case by calling a series of rebuttal witnesses to contradict Noriega’s defenders.

Jurors also heard testimony, sometimes confusing and indirect, from a friend of a woman involved in a guns-for-drugs shipment and from a former drug agent in Panama.

Doris Fernandez, roommate and friend of a Colombian woman who participated in the March 1986 guns-for-drugs trip of the yacht Krill, was called to undermine the defense testimony of Noriega’s former aide Cleto Hernandez.

Hernandez had said he had no knowledge of the Krill voyage, which prosecutors charge Noriega protected.

But Ms. Fernandez said she later gave Hernandez a full account of the voyage.

Her boss, Nubia Pina, also told her Noriega’s friend Cesar Rodriguez was part of a separate deal with Colombian traffickers involving cocaine-refining chemicals, she testified.

″She said Mr. Noriega, Mr. Manuel Antonio Noriega, was the one who provided (the chemicals) to Cesar,″ she testified.

On cross-examination, she acknowledged the information was third-hand and that she did not know if it was true.

Earlier Tuesday, Felipe Pena, a drug-agent-turned-bus-driver, testified he had heard of an attempt by Noriega underlings to plant drugs in the car of an Ecuadoran presidential candidate in 1985.

Fellow drug agents used cocaine that Pena himself had helped seize previously, he said. But he then testified the drugs came from a seizure in November 1985, after the drugs were allegedly planted.

The incident with Ecuadoran candidate Abdala Bucaram actually occurred in November 1986, not early 1985, according to media reports at the time.

Pena acknowledged he volunteered to testify against Noriega last month after Panamanian newspapers named him as a suspect in the Bucaram case. But he denied his testimony was part of a deal to drop the charges in Panama.

Prosecutors said they hope to present final arguments next week.

Noriega is accused of 10 drug and racketeering counts punishable by a maximum 140-year prison sentence. He has been held since he surrendered to U.S. invasion forces in January 1990.

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