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Argentina court formally charges ex-president Menem in arms deals

[JURIST] Former Argentine President Carlos Menem [official website] was formally charged Friday with illegally trafficking arms to Croatia and Ecuador, contrary to a 1991 UN embargo [text] against Croatia and a 1995 Organization of American States (OAS) ban on selling arms to Ecuador. Defense lawyers contend the then-president authorized legal arms shipments to Venezuela and Panama which were then diverted, without Menem's knowledge, to Croatia and Ecuador. A Buenos Aires-based court charged Menem by videolink with his home town in Argentina's northern La Rioja province as Menem said health problems precluded his attendance. BBC News has more.

Menem, on trial with 17 co-defendants, began trial in October [JURIST report], although parties in Argentina are formally charged individually. If convicted, Menem could face up to 12 years in prison, although his senate seat affords him temporary immunity [AP report]. In May, prosecutors sought Menem regarding an alleged cover-up of the 1994 bombing [JURIST report] of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center.

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