Argentine ex-leader angrily denounces graft charges at trial

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández made an unusual detour Monday on her way back to power as vice president, appearing in court to defend herself against corruption charges stemming from her time in office.

The former leader, who becomes vice president in eight days, is charged with heading a criminal association that defrauded the government by illegally granting public works projects in the southern province on Santa Cruz during her 2007-2015 presidency.

Fernández angrily denounced the accusations as political persecution and blamed the outgoing administration of President Mauricio Macri. The ex-president at times shouted during Monday’s hearing, which lasted four hours.

“History has absolved me, and history is going to absolve me,” she told the three judges. “History will condemn you.”

She told the judges that she was not going to answer questions because “it is you who have to answer questions.”

Fernández will be vice president under President-elect Alberto Fernández, who takes office Dec. 10 after beating Macri in Oct. 27 elections.

Fernández is accused of heading of an illegal association that improperly awarded 51 public works contracts to the construction company led businessman Lázaro Báez.

Among the defendants are former Federal Planning Minister Julio De Vido, former Public Works Secretary José López and ex-officials with the national roads agency.

The ex-president also faces four other legal processes for alleged crimes committed during her presidency whose start dates have not been set and five detention requests that have stalled because as a senator she has immunity from arrest, though not from prosecution.

This first process began in May while she was campaigning. She said at the time that she was “going to prove the imputation is false.”