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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 August, 2003, 07:29 GMT 08:29 UK
Special cell for Nicaragua ex-president
Arnoldo Aleman
Police cannot afford to guard Aleman
A Nicaraguan judge has ordered that former president Arnoldo Aleman must be kept in prison while awaiting trial on corruption charges.

Mr Aleman, 57, who left office at the beginning of last year, has been under house arrest at his luxurious ranch outside the capital of Managua since December.

He has been accused of helping to embezzle tens of millions of dollars of government money for party political purposes during his presidency.

He faces several other charges of fraud, embezzlement and money laundering.

About 20 guards are currently assigned each day to ensure he remains on his property - cover which police are struggling to provide due to financial problems, criminal judge Juana Mendez told a local news station.

Hunger strike

She ruled that a specially refurbished prison cell was suitable accommodation for the former president.

The cell was originally designed for Agustin Jarquin, a former high-level government employee who was jailed on corruption charges but kept separate from other inmates for his own safety.

But Mr Aleman's lawyer Mauricio Martinez reportedly dismissed the announcement, saying neither the Attorney General's office, which is prosecuting the former president, nor the police, had officially requested such a move.

"I don't know who is twisting Mendez's arm," he said, adding that the leftist opposition Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), led by former president Daniel Ortega is likely to be orchestrating the move, AFP news agency reports.

Some 70 supporters of Mr Aleman are said to be starting a hunger strike to demand his freedom.


SEE ALSO:
Nicaragua ex-leader faces charges
20 Sep 02  |  Americas



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