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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 April 2006, 07:29 GMT 08:29 UK
Estrada denies money laundering
Supporters of former Philippines President Joseph Estrada
Supporters of Joseph Estrada expressed solidarity outside court
Former Philippine President Joseph Estrada has denied laundering millions of dollars, as he lamented spending five years in custody.

"Not even in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be placed on this witness stand - from president to prisoner," he said in court in Manila.

He was arrested five years ago this Wednesday, after being ousted by a popular revolt in January 2001.

He denies corruption and amassing about $80m (46m) while in office.

Accused in court on Wednesday of establishing his Muslim Youth Foundation to launder proceeds from illegal gambling, he replied: "That's impossible because all the foundations that I founded are legitimate foundations with a track record."

The charity, which helped provide scholarships for Muslim youths, received large donations anonymously, but Mr Estrada denies the gifts were bribes or that he had access to the cash.

'No rancour'

Mr Estrada, a former film star who had massive popular support but clashed with the political establishment, the Catholic Church and the army, released a statement to mark the anniversary of his detention.

"It was during these five years that I learned what true forgiveness means. I found out that it is when you completely forgive and pray for those who have wronged you that you find spiritual fulfilment," he said. "There is no rancour within me."

"I know I am innocent because I never committed those crimes that the government has charged me with," he insisted.

If he is convicted, Mr Estrada, 69, could face the death penalty, but the BBC's Sarah Toms in Manila says it is far more likely that he will be imprisoned or be given a pardon.

Profile: Joseph Estrada
22 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Estrada denies corruption charge
22 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Estrada allowed house arrest
13 Jul 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Philippine presidency race begins
09 Feb 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: The Philippines
09 Jul 03 |  Country profiles

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