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Argentina’s vice president criticizes corruption case as a “staged fable”

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who survived an assassination attempt this month, faces 12 years on corruption charges.

Buenos Aires, Argentina – Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has offered a fiery final word in her defense, calling the corruption allegations against her “a staged fable meant to pull my hair about this trial”.

In closing arguments in a federal court on Friday, Argentina’s powerful vice president also linked the trial to an assassination attempt on her earlier this month and hinted that some of those behind the Sept. 1 attack have yet to be arrested.

“Up until September 1st, I thought it was just a matter of stigmatizing me, banning me, vilifying me, slandering me. But on September 1, I realized there could be something else behind all of this,” she said.

“It’s like the judiciary giving a social license for everyone to think or do anything.”

Friday’s hearing came just weeks after a man pointed a revolver at Fernandez de Kirchner’s head, amid a crowd of supporters who had gathered outside her home in Buenos Aires to show their support amid the corruption case. The attacker pulled the trigger, but the gun didn’t fire.

The assassination attempt was widely condemned but had a negligible impact on public opinion of Fernandez de Kirchner, with polls this month putting her positive image at between 24 and 34 percent.

During her address in court, Fernandez de Kirchner stressed calling those now accused of the assassination the “material authors” — saying that “no one can believe that this group was the planned” or “intellectual authors” of the attack.

Accused gunman Fernando Andre Sabag Montiel, 35, has been charged with attempted murder along with his girlfriend, 23-year-old Brenda Uliarte. Two other people were also arrested.

Friday was Fernandez de Kirchner’s final opportunity to defend himself before a three-person jury in Buenos Aires.

She is accused of running “an illegal organization” and “serious fraudulent administration” in a case covering a period between 2003 and 2015 when she and her late husband, Nestor Kirchner, held the presidency of Argentina.

Prosecutors say that during her years at the helm from 2007 to 2015, Fernandez de Kirchner illegally helped channel state money into public road construction contracts awarded to companies owned by a Kirchner employee in the southern province of Santa Cruz, which they own belongs to political stronghold.

A total of 51 contracts have been awarded to companies owned by Lazaro Baez, who is among 12 other people charged in the road construction case. Baez was convicted of money laundering in another count last year.

“When Nestor Kirchner assumed the presidency of the nation, and later his wife … they installed and maintained within Santa Cruz’s national and provincial government one of the most extraordinary corruption matrices that unfortunately and sadly ever existed in the country,” prosecutor Diego Luciani said last month in the lead his remarks.

Luciani estimates that the state defrauded $926 million and has asked the court to sentence Fernandez de Kirchner to 12 years in prison for her role in the alleged scheme and to ban her from holding public office for life.

This sparked huge demonstrations in support of her outside her home, including the one during which the assassination took place.

Carlos Beraldi, Fernandez de Kirchner’s lawyer, went through the prosecutors’ claims in court on Friday, which he says are unsupported by facts.

Using testimony from the trial, he refuted claims that road works were uncompleted, too expensive, or delayed. He also said the cost of the alleged fraud was not a reliable estimate. “Cristina Kirchner never issued any instructions in connection with the work examined,” said Beraldi.

Fernandez de Kirchner said prosecutors in the case should be investigated for the “incredible lies” they spread, adding that claims that she ran an illegal organization were illogical and unconstitutional. “We were elected by the people. We can never be an illegal association,” she said.

A verdict in the case could come as early as December or early next year when Argentina’s presidential elections take place.

“This case is important because of the political actors involved,” Argentine political scientist Ricardo Rouvier told Al Jazeera, noting that Fernandez de Kirchner remains the leader of a political minority in Argentina that is nonetheless “very active”.

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