Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega has been released from prison for three months to have surgery to remove a brain tumour, his lawyer has said.

Noriega, who ruled Panama from 1983 to 1989, left prison under heavy police guard to undergo treatment ahead of the surgery planned for 15 February, and was taken to the apartment of one of his daughters in an upscale part of Panama City.

His defence lawyer, Ezra Angel, said judicial authorities had granted 82-year-old Noriega a period of home arrest until 28 April to go through with the operation.

Afterwards an assessment will be made on whether he should return to prison or recover outside, judge Katerin Pitti said.

Noriega, who is serving time for murder, was initially sentenced in the United States in 1992.