August 30, 2005

Court eases sentence for Nicaraguan ex-president

MANAGUA (Reuters) - Nicaragua's Supreme Court ruled on
Tuesday that former President Arnoldo Aleman, serving a 20-year
sentence for fraud, can leave his home and move at will around
the nation's capital.

It was the second time Aleman's sentence has been modified
since his 2003 conviction. Last December he was allowed to
leave his jail cell to serve his time at his plantation outside
Managua due to ill health.

His attorneys had sought to expand that privilege to give
him freedom to move around the capital based on chronic health
care needs. A lower court granted that petition but the ruling
was overturned by an appeals court.

On Tuesday the Supreme Court upheld the original ruling
granting Aleman the right to freely travel around Managua and
the immediate area, though he still cannot go elsewhere.

Aleman, known as "Fat Man" for his girth as well as his
lifestyle while president, was convicted of money laundering,
misuse of funds and other crimes during his 1997-2002 term. He
is appealing the conviction.

The government of President Enrique Bolanos, who once was
Aleman's vice president and then became his chief accuser after
succeeding him as president, said the ruling was engineered by
Aleman's political allies on the court.

Aleman is the first ex-president convicted of a crime and
was targeted by Bolanos' administration in a crackdown on

The criminal case caused a rift in the Liberal Party, which
turned its back on Bolanos although he had won the presidency
on the party ticket. The party remains the main force in the
National Assembly and faithful to Aleman.

Bolanos has been increasingly isolated since the corruption
case and beset by crisis. Lawmakers are deciding whether to
lift his immunity so he can face election fraud charges.

State regulators have accused him of failing to disclose
the origin of campaign funds. Bolanos says he has provided the
information and the charges are motivated by partisanship.