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Rudy Giuliani "excited" to defend video game firm vs. ex-dictator

LOS ANGELES -- Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will defend Activision in court against a lawsuit filed by imprisoned Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega over the "Call of Duty" franchise, the video game maker said Thursday.

Giuliani joined the legal team fighting Noriega's lawsuit last month but had not been expected to argue the video game giant's case at an Oct. 16 hearing.

Noriega sued Activision Blizzard Inc. in July over his inclusion in 2012's "Call of Duty: Black Ops II." The former military dictator did not authorize the use of his likeness in the game, but Activision contends its usage is protected by the First Amendment.

The ex-dictator sued, claiming the game maker depicted him as a killer and enemy of the state. The game features a story line in which players capture Noriega, who in turn helps the game's villain.

Activision contends that Noriega plays a minor role in the game and his case should be dismissed.

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"If successful, this case would obliterate the entire genre of historical fiction," Giuliani wrote in a statement. "I couldn't be more excited at the prospect of being back in court to defend the makers of Call of Duty against this convicted murderer who wants to make a mockery of the U.S. legal system and attack our right to free speech."

Previous "Call of Duty" games have featured historical figures such as President John F. Kennedy and Fidel Castro.

In a sworn declaration, Noriega wrote that he learned his likeness had been used in the game after his grandchildren played it and asked why one of the missions focused on captured the ex-dictator.

Noriega's lawyers argue that the First Amendment defense doesn't apply because Activision copied the ex-dictator's likeness without consent and did not transform his video game character into something different from his actual persona.

"Here, Activision painstakingly created a character in its 'Black Ops II' game that was nothing more than a conventional, high-tech recreation of General Manuel Noriega," Noriega's lawyers wrote in a filing earlier this month.

Noriega was toppled in 1989 by a U.S. invasion and served a 17-year drug trafficking sentence in the United States. He later was convicted in France of money laundering, and that country repatriated him to Panama in December 2011. Noriega, 80, is serving a 60-year sentence for murder, embezzlement and corruption.

Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega gestures upon arrival at the Renacer prison, 25 kilometers south east of Panama City, on December 11, 2011. RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images

He has had health issues in recent months and has been treated for high blood pressure, flu and bronchitis. His family also has said he has a benign brain tumor and heart trouble.

Giuliani, who led New York City's government for two terms - including during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks - is also a former U.S. attorney and sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. In private practice, Giuliani worked as a free speech lawyer, representing major news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and the financial magazine Barron's.

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