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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 October 2007, 21:28 GMT 22:28 UK
Argentine judge accuses ex-leader
By Daniel Schweimler
BBC News, Buenos Aires

Protesters demonstrate in Buenos Aires, 20 December 2001
Argentina saw mass street protests at the end of 2001
Legal action has begun in Argentina against a former president for the part he allegedly played in the killing of five people during riots in 2001.

Fernando de la Rua fled the presidential palace shortly after the deaths as a severe economic, social and political crisis gripped the country.

A judge accused him of failing to prevent the killing of the five.

He is said to have failed to use the tools available to him as head of state to prevent the bloodshed.

More than $6m of his assets have been frozen.

The case will only go to trial if approved by a higher court.

'Breakthrough'

The deaths came during clashes between demonstrators and police in the capital, Buenos Aires.

Fernando de la Rua, former Argentine president (image from 1999)
Argentina has staged a recovery since Mr de la Rua's presidency

Shortly afterwards, Mr de la Rua made a dramatic escape by helicopter from the presidential palace.

Argentina was at the time in the middle of a crisis which saw five presidents in the space of 10 days and the country default on its foreign debt.

Thousands of people took to the streets as their savings were frozen, while riots and looting swept the country.

More than half the population found themselves living below the poverty line and an estimated 30 people died during the clashes.

A prosecution lawyer said they had been trying for five years to bring Mr de la Rua to court and the decision was a major breakthrough.

The former president's lawyers say the accusations are politically motivated, coming just five days before a presidential election in Argentina.

SEE ALSO
A tale of two Argentinas
11 Mar 06 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Timeline: Argentina
11 Oct 07 |  Country profiles

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