Tuesday, July 7, 2020
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ARGENTINA | 05-03-2020 14:11

Court orders ex-planning minister Julio de Vido's release

Court orders veteran Veteran Kirchnerite official and ex-federal planning minister's release, saying he has been "detained for a period longer than the maximum legal term of two years."

Veteran Kirchnerite official and former federal planning minister Julio de Vido was released from custody on Thursday after more than two years in detention.

De Vido, 70, faces multiple corruption charges involving alleged wrongdoing during his time in office. He served a full 12 years of the Kirchnerite governments, working under late president Néstor Kirchner and ex-president, now current vice-president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

The ex-government official has been remanding in custody for more than two years, since October 25, 2017, after being stripped of his immunity as a national deputy. He faces allegations he diverted public funds that were assigned to the Río Turbio coal mine in the southern province of Santa Cruz, the Kirchners' stronghold. 

The case has not yet been brought to trial.

On Wednesday, Federal Oral Court No. 1 ordered De Vido's immediate release from custody, ruling that he had "been detained for a period longer than the maximum legal term of two years." The court said "there are no certain and concrete elements to conclude that he will try to hinder the course of the process or circumvent the action of justice. "

In November 2019, the same court had allowed De Vido to be fitted with an electronic tracking bracelet and to be held under a preventive detention order at his estate in Zárate in Buenos Aires Province, instead of behind bars.

"I am not afraid of anything, or of going back to jail or the frontpage of any newspaper," De Vido told reporters on Wednesday, after he was notified of his release by the City courthouse.

The former national lawmaker – who alleges his jailing is part of a plot of "political persecution" orchestrated by former president Mauricio Macri – also faces corruption accusation in the so-called "Cuadernos" notebooks corruption case. In that investigation, Fernández de Kirchner, De Vido's former boss, has been accused of leading a bribery ring involving public works projects, a host of other ex-government officials and high-profile business leaders.

Once rail crash

In 2018, De Vido was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison on charges related to the  infamous Once station rail crash in 2012. Fifty-one people, among them a pregnant woman, were killed and nearly 800 injured when a passenger train plummeted into the Once railway terminal during peak hour in Buenos Aires’ Balvanera neighbourhood on February 22, 2012.

He was found guilty of defrauding public administration, yet acquitted of a charge of criminal damage endangering public safety. However, that sentence has not yet been ratified and he had not been remanded in custody prior to the trial. 

"If there is justice, that case will fall," De Vido said on Thursday.

He credited his release to "sovereign will of the Argentine people," a reference to the December 10 change of government, in which President Alberto Fernández assumed office.

“Love triumphs over hate and life over death; I was arrested without even having been investigated," he added.

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