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Friday, 20 September, 2002, 01:08 GMT 02:08 UK
Nicaragua ex-leader faces charges
Sandinista supporters outside National Assembly
Opposition supporters celebrated

Crowds have been celebrating in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua, after the National Assembly agreed measures which could lead to corruption charges being brought against former president Arnoldo Aleman.

Dissidents from the ruling Nicaraguan Liberal Party joined deputies from the opposition left-wing Sandinista party to dismiss Mr Aleman from his post as chairman of the National Assembly.

Arnoldo Aleman
Aleman faces allegations of money-laundering and corruption
They also voted to dissolve the congressional body which last week blocked the request to strip Mr Aleman of his immunity from prosecution.

Earlier in the day, thousands of Sandinista supporters had marched on the National Assembly and they reacted with shouts of delight at the decision to remove Mr Aleman as head of Congress.

His removal - and that of his supporters in the governing board of Congress - paves the way for a vote on whether to remove his immunity from prosecution.

With those opposed to Mr Aleman now in the majority, it is likely he will stand trial.

That will be a popular move amongst ordinary Nicaraguans.

A recent poll suggested that up to 90% of them wanted to see their former president in court.

Funds 'laundered'

Nicaragua's attorney-general has accused Mr Aleman and 13 associates of siphoning off almost $100m of public funds before he left office earlier this year.

That is equal to the government budget for a whole year.

The government claims that Mr Aleman laundered the funds through front companies and bank accounts in Panama and the Caribbean.

Mr Aleman has denied any wrongdoing.

Reacting to today's decision, he said the removal of the National Assembly leadership was illegal and that he was going to appeal against the decision to the Supreme Court.

See also:

03 Nov 01 | Media reports
06 Nov 01 | Americas
05 Nov 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
27 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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