Crime & Justice

Argentine rights groups denounce conviction of Cristina Fernandez

Buenos Aires, Dec 13 (EFE).- More than 40 Argentine human rights organizations joined here Tuesday in condemning last week’s conviction of Vice President Cristina Fernandez in a corruption case.

“Democracy is at risk in the country, but it is at risk in the entire continent,” 1980 Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel said during a press conference at the former Naval Mechanics School in Buenos Aires, now the site of a museum honoring the tens of thousands killed, tortured or unjustly imprisoned by the 1976-1983 military regime.

The event, part of Argentina’s observance of International Human Rights Day, took place with support from the government.

Members of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group founded by the families of those who were “disappeared” by the junta, read from a manifesto critical of the judicial process against Fernandez for alleged crimes from her 2007-2015 presidency and the 2003-2007 administration of her late husband, Nestor Kirchner.

“This political tribunal seeks, via a conviction without evidence, to ban for the life the principal political leader of our country, with a verdict that constitutes a clear demonstration that ‘lawfare’ exists in our country,” the text says.

Fernandez, 69, was one of 13 defendants accused in connection with public works contracts awarded during the 12 years she and Kirchner occupied the presidency.

In a verdict handed down last Tuesday, she was sentenced to six years in prison and barred from ever holding public office again.

Though she currently enjoys immunity from arrest as vice president, Fernandez – widely expected to run for president next year – responded to the verdict by announcing that she will stand for any office in 2023 and blasting what she called a “judicial mafia.”

The signatories of the manifesto describe the case against Fernandez as a “persecution by the judiciary, media and concentrated economic power.”

And they pointed to “coincidences” between the Fernandez case and the legal travails of Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who spent nearly two years in prison after being convicted of bribe-taking based on the uncorroborated account of a witness who testified under a plea bargain.

With Lula, a popular former two-term president, behind bars, rightist Jair Bolsonaro won the 2018 election.

Revelations of misconduct by the judge and prosecutors led to the overturning of the conviction and Lula will begin a third term on Jan. 1 after defeating Bolsonaro in the October elections.

“The full validity of the democratic accord to which all Argentines committed themselves almost 40 years ago requires that we be able to continue judging those responsible for the crimes of the most horrific period of our history, but also that there be no type of proscription, persecution or prison for those who represent the interests of the people,” the human rights advocates said.

They also criticized “the impudent connivance, which was disclosed publicly, among judges, prosecutors, officials, intelligence agents and media executives exposes a way of functioning that makes it impossible to have confidence in the administration of justice.”

The publicly disclosed “connivance” took the form on online and in-person interactions involving participants in the judicial process and private parties, including a visit to the Argentine estate of British tycoon Joe Lewis, who is embroiled in dispute with authorities over land deals in the South American country. EFE rgm-mjbd/dr

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