(CNN) — The creators of the “Call of Duty” video game franchise on Monday filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit by former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who says the 2012 video game “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” has damaged his reputation.
Noriega, 80, is serving a prison sentence in Panama after being convicted of drug trafficking, money laundering and killing political opponents.
Creators of the video game called the lawsuit “frivolous” and filed the motion to dismiss it on the ground that Noriega’s portrayal in the game is protected by the First Amendment.
“What’s astonishing is that Manuel Noriega, a notorious dictator who is in prison for the heinous crimes he committed, is upset about being portrayed as a criminal and enemy of the state in the game Call of Duty. Quite simply, it’s absurd,” said former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, attorney for the video game creator, Activision Blizzard Inc.
“This is a notorious dictator who’s attacking the freedom of speech rights of an American company,” Giuliani told CNN.
Noriega, 80, filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court in July. In it, he argues that his portrayal “as a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state” in the 2012 video game damaged his reputation. The company used his image and name in order to make money, the lawsuit says; therefore, he’s entitled to a share of the profits.
“Plaintiff was portrayed as an antagonist as the culprit of numerous fictional heinous crimes, creating the false impression that defendants are authorized to use plaintiff’s image and likeness,” the lawsuit says.
The video game includes historical footage and several real-life characters in Cold War scenarios, including former Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North. But while North did his own voiceover for the game and acted as an adviser, Noriega said in the July lawsuit that he wasn’t consulted — or compensated — for the use of his likeness.
“Call of Duty” video games take storylines from current headlines, and its characters are based on historical figures, from former Cuban leader Fidel Castro to David Petraeus, the retired general and former CIA director.
For almost two decades, Noriega was a major player in a country of critical regional importance to the United States because of its location on the Panama Canal, the key strategic and economic waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans on the narrow isthmus linking the Americas. Amid growing unrest in Panama, then-U.S. President George H.W. Bush ordered the invasion of the Central American nation in December 1989, saying Noriega’s rule posed a threat to U.S. lives and property. Noriega fled his offices and tried to seek sanctuary in the Vatican Embassy in Panama City. He surrendered in January 1990 and was escorted to the United States for civilian trial.
Noriega was indicted in the United States on charges of racketeering, laundering drug money and drug trafficking. He was accused of having links to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s notorious Medellin cartel and, in the process, amassing a multimillion-dollar fortune. He was convicted of drug trafficking and other crimes and served nearly two decades in prison. In 2010, a French court sentenced Noriega to seven years in prison for laundering 2.3 million euros ($2.9 million) through banks there. He was ordered to pay the money back. In Panama, where he was convicted of killing political opponents, he has been hospitalized several times since he returned in 2011 to serve out his prison sentence.