Argentina: ex-president gets prison term —almost

The Court of Cassation of Argentina, the highest criminal court, sentenced former president Carlos Menem to seven years on June 14 for illegal weapons sales to Croatia and Ecuador during his presidency. Now-senator Menem pleaded innocence, claiming that the weapons were intended for Panama and Venezuela but were stolen and sold to parties that violated the country’s peace agreements (PDF) and UN embargoes. The lower court initially acquitted Menem and 17 other defendants last year on a series of charges. On appeal, however, the Court of Cassation sentenced 12 of those defendants to prison time and remanded the case in light of what is described as “overwhelming evidence.” Menem, now 82, receives immunity as a public servant. The court urged his fellow representatives to strip him of this privilege, but recent scandals involving his colleagues may make it difficult for a majority of senators to establish that precedent. Furthermore, under Argentina law, all prisoners over 70 have the right to serve penal time at home. Thus, even if the senate does relinquish Menem’s immunity, he will most likely never serve time behind bars.

From Jurist, June 15. Used with permission.

  1. Menem found not guilty in arms trafficking case

    A Buenos Aires Federal Court of Appeals ruled in favor of acquitting former Argentine President Carlos Saúl Menem in the case for arms trafficking to Ecuador and Croatia after 23 years of legal proceedings. Menem had already been sentenced to seven years in prison by a lower court but that ruling is now reversed. (MercoPress)