Argentina corruption trial against Fernández likely delayed

May 15, 2019
In this handout photo provided by the Unidad Ciudadana political party, former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez smiles as she officially present her book "Sincerely," during the Buenos Aires book fair in Argentina, Thursday, May 9, 2019. The presentation of her memoirs has become a best-seller since its release. (Unidad Ciudadana via AP )

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — A decision by Argentina’s Supreme Court is likely to delay the first in a series of corruption trials against former President Cristina Fernández.

The trial had been set for May 21. But the top court ruled late Tuesday in favor of her defense team and said it would review the federal court file to evaluate the legal arguments presented by the former leader and others.

Governing party politicians criticized the decision, saying it seems aimed at protecting the center-left Fernández ahead of the October presidential election, in which she is expected to challenge her conservative successor, Mauricio Macri.

The top court’s ruling is “odd, at the very least, and is politically tainted,” Justice Minister Germán Garavano said.

Fernández, who was president in 2007-2015, has been accused of taking bribes in exchange for public work contracts. She denies any wrongdoing and says lower courts did not allow her to present more witnesses and a comparative analysis of the companies that gained public works contracts during her presidency.

In separate cases, she faces several formal investigations into allegations of bribery, money laundering and criminal association during her administration and that of her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, who was president in 2003-2007.

Fernández, now a senator, has accused officials of persecuting her to distract from Argentina’s current economic crisis. Fernández’s Senate seat grants her immunity from arrest but not from prosecution.

The anti-corruption office has asked for the trial not to be suspended, and a prosecutor asked the top court to guarantee the start of the process.

Fernández’s sympathizers celebrated the court’s decision.

“Tempers are flaring in the government because they couldn’t get the photo of the former president in the bench of the accused,” said Fernández’s former Cabinet chief, Aníbal Fernández.

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