Argentina prosecutor seeks 12-year jail sentence for VP Kirchner

Senate debates the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in Buenos Aires
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BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -An Argentine federal prosecutor requested a 12-year prison sentence on Monday for Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the country's former president and current vice president, on corruption charges related to public works.

Prosecutor Diego Luciani accused Fernandez de Kirchner, a still-influential voice for the left wing of the ruling Peronist party, of defrauding the state and involvement in a scheme to divert public funds while president between 2007 and 2015.

The sentence will be known in months, according to local media, although Fernandez de Kirchner could appeal it to higher courts, which would take years to reach a final verdict.

"This is probably the biggest corruption maneuver that has ever been known in the country," Luciani said in arguing for the sentence, which has fueled fresh political tension in the South American country.

On Twitter, Fernandez de Kirchner, who testified in court in 2019, said she was facing a "media-judicial firing squad" and "not a constitutional court."

The former president added that she was not given an opportunity to testify on new elements of the case and would present her defense on social media on Tuesday.

Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez condemned the decision on Twitter, describing the decision in a statement as a case of judicial persecution.

"None of the acts attributed to the former president have been proven," the statement said.

The prosecutor also requested a lifetime ban on Fernandez de Kirchner from holding public office.

Later on Monday, local police dispersed dozens of protesters in front of Kirchner's house in the capital of Buenos Aires, with camps both against and in support of the prosecutor's request, local television showed.

The investigation seeks to establish whether she and other officials in her administration favored firms owned by businessman Lazaro Baez in the bidding processes for dozens of public works in the southern region of Patagonia, many of which were overpriced or were not completed.

Many experts suspect that the allegedly diverted capital would have returned to the hands of the Kirchner family through their companies.

(Reporting by Nicolás Misculin and Jorge Otaola; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Stephen Coates and Sam Holmes)