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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nicaragua Sentences Ex-President to 20 Years

MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- Former President Arnoldo Aleman, who returned from exile under the leftist Sandinistas to rebuild Nicaragua's ruling party, was convicted on corruption charges Sunday and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and fined $10 million.

The sentence could put an end to the former president's grip on the ruling Constitutionalist Liberal Party, where Aleman's authority has endured despite charges he illegally diverted some $100 million in government funds to his party's election campaigns while in office. Judge Juana Mendez cited crimes of fraud, misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement, criminal association and electoral violations endangering the state in her sentencing against Aleman, who was president from 1997 to January 2002.

It is the first time a former president has been convicted in Nicaragua.

In Sunday's decision, Mendez also stripped Aleman of his ability to serve in Nicaragua's legislature, where he led the largest voting bloc as a senator upon leaving office.

Mendez's decision in late November to release Aleman from jail to house arrest provoked international concern that the judicial process had been compromised.

But Sunday, the judge described how Aleman and officials high up in his administration formed anonymous societies in Panama, where public funds from Nicaragua were laundered and mixed with political donations.

"The money was used for the benefit of Aleman and his family and electoral campaigns of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party," Mendez said.