Trial of Argentina’s ex-president kicks off

The trial against former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, accused of heading an illegal association to commit fraud by awarding public contracts to businesses which allegedly had close ties to her family, began Tuesday in a court here.

The trial began with a reading of the charges against Fernandez, currently a national senator, and 12 other defendants, including former officials and business people.

The trial seeks to determine whether Fernandez, during her term, directed public contracts worth 46 billion pesos (nearly 1 billion U.S. dollars) to the Grupo Austral construction firm, owned by businessman Lazaro Baez, who was arrested in 2016.

Gerardo Pollicita and Ignacio Mahiques, prosecutors who prepared the case in the previous stage, stated that the accused were associated in an illegal manner in order to favor Baez with the awarding of 52 public projects in the Argentine province of Santa Cruz between 2004 and 2015.

Hours before the start of the trial, the former president declared that she was facing a “persecution” during an election year.

She tweeted that it was “a trial to which she should never have been summoned. This is a new act of persecution with only one goal: to place a former president opposed to this government on the defendants’ bench during a presidential campaign.”

“I never intervened in any of the administrative files for any of those projects,” Fernandez added.

After three hours of hearing, the court called for a recess until Monday when court will resume.

The court proceedings will last nearly a year according to estimates by judicial experts, due to the large amount of evidence presented by the prosecution and defense, and the large number of witnesses that will be called.