BUENOS AIRES: An Argentine court sentenced vice-president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to six years in jail and disqualified her from holding public office in a high-profile corruption case yesterday, though she has immunity due to her public office.
The powerful vice-president will not face immediate prison time and is also expected to appeal the sentence, with the case likely to spend years winding through higher courts.
Fernandez de Kirchner served as president for two terms between 2007 and 2015 and commands rock-star crowds of supporters.
She faced charges of alleged corruption in the awarding of public works during her presidency.
She has denied the allegations and called the court a “firing squad”.
In a live streamed session, Federal Court 2 in Buenos Aires city found Fernandez de Kirchner guilty of the crime of “fraudulent administration” in a case known as “Vialidad” in which construction magnate Lazaro Baez was also sentenced to six years in jail.
Prosecutors alleged that public works contracts were handed to a businessman ally of Fernandez de Kirchner, who then channelled money back to her and late husband Nestor Kirchner, also a former president.
Defenders of the vice-president maintain that she was a victim of judicial persecution.
Lawyers said that Fernandez de Kirchner would not go to jail any time soon because she has immunity while serving as vice-president.
She would need to be removed from office in a political trial before she could be sent to prison.
“She currently has privileges as vice-president, which means she is one of the officials whose removal requires a political trial,” said lawyer Alejandro Carrio, adding that higher courts could spend years going over appeals up to the Supreme Court.
“I do not see the process with a case of this magnitude taking less than three years.”
The country is on edge after a long economic crisis and inflation heading towards 100%.
Supporters of Fernandez de Kirchner gathered in the streets after she survived an assassination attempt this year.
The ruling Peronist government of President Alberto Fernandez is facing a tough battle to fend off a challenge from the conservative opposition in general elections set for next year.
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