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Monday, 19 November, 2001, 12:33 GMT
Estrada suffers trial setback
Joseph Estrada in court in October
Mr Estrada denies all charges against him
The Philippines Supreme Court has thrown out former President Joseph Estrada's legal challenge to his ongoing trial on charges of corruption.

The [anti-plunder] law is constitutional, no question about it

Supreme court spokesman Ismael Khan
A majority of judges ruled the anti-plunder law, under which Mr Estrada is charged, is constitutional.

Mr Estrada, who was ousted from power in January amid popular protests, is charged with plundering $80m in state funds during his 30 months in office.

If convicted, he could face life imprisonment or the death penalty.

His lawyers had argued the anti-plunder law was vague. They said it denied Mr Estrada his constitutional right to know clearly what the charges against him were, and to mount a proper defence.

Majority decision

Ten judges voted against Mr Estrada, four in favour and one abstained.

Riot police escort a van carrying Mr Estrada at the time of his arrest in April
Mr Estrada was ousted in January and arrested in April
Supreme court spokesman Ismael Khan said: "The Supreme Court said the law is constitutional, no question about it."

A lawyer for Mr Estrada said his legal team would examine the decision closely before deciding what further course of action to take.

"There may be something in the decision that's favourable to us, like the amount of evidence that would be required for a conviction," Raymond Fortun told the Associated Press news agency.

But the government's chief prosecutor, Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, said the decision left no doubt and the trial would now proceed.

The trial in the anti-corruption Sandiganbayan court has been overshadowed in the past few weeks by a public row between judges and allegations of bribe-taking made against Mr Desierto.

See also:

07 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada prosecutor accused of graft
06 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada 'needs' US knee operation
05 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Judges squabble threatens Estrada trial
29 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Court blow for Estrada prosecutors
16 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
New delay in Estrada trial
03 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada gets break from new charges
01 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada plays trial cat and mouse
10 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada: Movie hero or villain?
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