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Argentina court sentences former president to 7 years in prison

The Court of Cassation of Argentina, the highest criminal court, sentenced former Argentine President Carlos Menem [official websites] of selling illegal weapons to Croatia and Ecuador during his presidency. The now-Senator Menem pleaded innocence, claiming that the weapons were intended for Panama and Venezuela but were stolen and sold to parties that violated the country's peace agreements [text, PDF] and UN embargoes [summary]. The lower court initially acquitted Menem and 17 other defendants last year on a series of charges [JURIST report]. On appeal, however, the Court of Cassation sentenced 12 of those defendants to jail time and remanded the case in light of what is described as "overwhelming evidence." Menem, now 82, receives immunity as a public servant. The court urged his fellow representatives to strip him of this privilege, but recent scandals involving his colleagues may make it difficult for a majority of senators to establish that precedent. Furthermore, under Argentina law, all prisoners over 70 have the right to serve penal time at home [AP report]. Thus, even if the senate does relinquish Menem's immunity, he will most likely never serve time behind bars.

In 2011, Menem was also put on trial for crimes committed during his presidency. Menem was indicted [JURIST report] by the Federal Court in 2009 on corruption charges for overpaying members of his administration from 1988 to 1989. In October 2008 an Argentine court charged [JURIST report] Menem with allegedly covering up evidence related to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Menem, born in Argentina to Syrian immigrants, was accused of covering up the alleged involvement of Syrian-Argentine businessman Alberto Kanoore Edul. Numerous members of his administration [JURIST news archive] have also faced a variety of charges over the past decade, but few have been convicted.

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