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A Dozen Injured, 60 Arrested In Panama Riots

September 7, 1993

PANAMA CITY, Panama (AP) _ Police arrested 60 people in a riot over the acquittal of seven military men accused of the 1985 murder of an opponent of dictator Gen. Manuel Noriega, authorities said Tuesday.

At least a dozen people were injured in the riot in the western province of Chiriqui, a police statement said.

Rioting broke out Monday night in the provincial capital of David after a jury declared the seven innocent. They had been accused of complicity in the slaying of Dr. Hugo Spadafora, who was tortured and decapitated not far from David.

Two other officers, also charged with the murder, chose to be tried directly by a judge instead of a jury. Noriega, who is serving a 40-year sentence in Miami for drug trafficking, was accused of ordering the slaying and is being tried in abstentia. A judge is expected to announce a verdict on Noriega this month.

Panama’s former strongman was deposed by a U.S. military invasion in December 1989 and taken to Miami.

Luis Cordova, a lieutenant colonel in Noriega’s now-disbanded Defense Force and one of the strongman’s principal aides, was acquitted of charges that he planned Spadafora’s killing.

The other six were variously charged with complicity, cover-up and related crimes.

Spadafora’s killing was one of the early events that ignited popular resistance to Noriega.

At the time Spadafora had just slipped into the country from exile in Costa Rica, planning to rouse opposition to Noriega. His body was found in a mail bag in Costa Rica, about a mile from the Panamanian border.

Crowds took to the streets of David shortly after the verdict was announced. People sacked stores, threw rocks and battled police for hours. Police fought back with birdshot and teargas.

Newspaper headlines Tuesday also showed anger about the verdict. ″Panama is crying with frustration, impotence and anguish,″ said one of the leading papers, La Prensa.

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