Lawyers representing Cristina Fernández de Kirchner laid out her defence in the so-called ‘Vialidad’ public works graft trial on Monday, with both the legal team and the vice-president herself accusing the prosecutors in the case of “blatantly lying” in order to send her to jail.
It remains unclear if Fernández de Kirchner, 69, will address the court herself during her limited hearings, but the approach of the Senate chief’s defence team was clear from the very start of the livestreamed hearings at the beginning of this week.
The former president, 69, stands accused of forming an illicit association and aggravated fraudulent administration related to alleged irregularities in the awarding of public works projects in her home province of Santa Cruz during her 2007-2015 time in office.
Fernández de Kirchner, along with a number of former government officials, are said to have directed contracts worth hundreds of billions of pesos to businessman Lázaro Báez as part of a corruption ring.
Prosecutors Diego Luciani and Sergio Mola have asked Federal Oral Court 2 to sentence Fernández de Kirchner to 12 years in jail for the alleged crimes and issue a lifetime ban from holding public office on the vice-president.
She denies the claims against her and says they are part of a bid to tarnish her political legacy and future. Fernández de Kirchner has been acquitted in several cases for alleged crimes that occurred when she was president, but she still faces five trials in the courts.
"There was undue interference of political power in the proceedings," claimed defence lawyer Carlos Beraldi at Monday’s remote hearing, which lasted more than six hours.
He argued that "the auditors said that there is no evidence of deficiencies in the contracts and [public] works and determined that the mismatches in works are not considered relevant.”
Beraldi also wondered how the prosecutors were able to build an indictment while arguing that none of the “control bodies,” such as Congress, had fulfilled their functions.
"A huge number of legislators have clearly been charged with violation of their duties without anyone saying anything. Everyone hears it as if it were a matter of course," he quipped.
Beraldi also pointed out errors and contradictions in the accusation presented by the prosecution, replaying clips of their own testimony to the court before going on to refute specific facts, such as proving that an alleged meeting between Báez and Fernández de Kirchner on November 30, 2015, at which she allegedly ordered the businessman to “clear everything up,” could not have taken place.
Attacking the allegations and the conduct of the prosecutors, defence lawyers for the former president have previously sought to remove the judge and prosecutors involved in the case by alleging they carry political bias.
As her defence progresses, Argentina’s vice-president has also ramped up her rhetoric on social media, inviting citizens to follow the livestream coverage of the case to ensure her voice is heard.
At the end of Monday's hearing, she commented on Twitter that Beraldi had "proved in documented form – as must be done in any trial – that Diego Luciani and Sergio Mola blatantly lied."
Beraldi “out of professional decorum, called it malpractice," she added.
On Tuesday, after praising her legal team’s “demolition” of “Luciani and Mola’s lies and fake news,” the former president accused the prosecutors of being “trolls.”
A verdict in the case, which can be appealed, is expected later this year. Fernández de Kirchner enjoys parliamentary privileges that exempt her from arrest or disqualification until the Supreme Court issues a final judgement against her.