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ARGENTINA | 27-05-2019 13:30

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in court for second hearing of corruption trial

Former president is accused of having led an illegal association centred on more than 50 public works projects involving Lázaro Báez, a Kirchner-aligned businessman, in Santa Cruz Province, during her 2007-2015 administration.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner appeared in court for the second time on Monday, as the trial investigating alleged corruption during her 2007-2015 administration related to public works projects continued.

The vice-presidential candidate in the October 27 elections was photographed smiling and waving to supporters as she arrived on time for proceedings. 

The former president's presence ran contrary to rumours at the tail-end of last week that she would not attend the second day of the trial, which began last week.

The Unidad Ciudadana leader last week asked for permission not to attend today's hearing at the AMIA room of the federal courthouse, citing her workload as a national senator. 

While Fernández de Kirchner doesn't have to attend every hearing of the trial, she must be present as one of the accused to hear the charges against her read out.

On Friday, the court authorised her absence, but on the condition that the ex-president present evidence justifying the measure. After consultation with her lawyers, the former president eventually decided to attend. 

"As in this case it could be subject to interpretation, a recommendation was given to attend. She will always do what's right," said Gregorio Dalbón, one of the former president's lawyers.

He confirmed his client must be present for hearings in which charges are read out, if she is questioned on the stand and to hear the verdict.

The former president ran the risk of being declared "in absentia" if she was not present without dispensation from the court.

Her legal team is expected to ask the court again today for an exemption from further trial dates.

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Prosecutors Gerardo Pollicita and Juan Ignacio Mahiques are reading the charges levelled against Fernández de Kirchner and 12 other people. On the first day of the trial, 100 pages of a total of 600 were aired, so the process is expected to last another two or three days worth of hearings.

As well as the former president, among the accused are former federal planning minister Julio De Vido, ex-public works secretary José López, businessman Lázaro Báez, Nelson Periotti, Carlos Kirchner, Raúl Daruich, Mauricio Collareda, Héctor Garro, Juan Carlos Villafañe, Raúl Pavesi, José Santibañez and Abel Fatala.

Fernández de Kirchner, 66, faces a dozen cases against her investigating alleged corruption. Judges have requested on five occasions she be remanded in custody ahead of trials, though she is exempt from such a measure due to her parliamentary immunity as a senator for Buenos Aires Province.

This case, known as 'Vialidad', is the first against her to reach trial. The trial is expected to last up to a year, featuring weekly hearings in which more than 100 people are set to testify.

The former president is accused of having led an illegal association centred on the awarding of more than 50 public works projects involving Báez, a Kirchner-aligned businessman, in Santa Cruz Province.

Two weekends ago, Fernández de Kirchner delivered the shock announcement that she would seek the vice-presidency on a ticket headed by her former Cabinet chief Alberto Fernández.

She denies wrongdoing and alleges that the trials against her are an act of "political persecution with a single objective: to place an ex-president opposing the government on the bench in the middle of the electoral campaign."

- TIMES/NA/AFP

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