Former Argentine president de la Rua in corruption trial

Former president de la Rua in court Mr de la Rua' trial is expected to last at least eight months

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The trial has begun in Argentina of former president Fernando de la Rua, accused of bribing senators to approve a labour reform bill in 2000.

Prosecutors say Mr de la Rua paid some $5m (£3m) to secure the votes of a group of senators in favour of legislation scrapping workers' rights.

He denies the charges and says the accusations are politically motivated.

Mr de la Rua resigned in 2001 amid riots triggered by one of Argentina's most serious economic crises.

Twelve years after the legislation was approved - and nearly a decade after it was revoked - the 74-year-old former president appeared in court in Buenos Aires to hear the charges.

Helicopter escape

More than 300 witnesses are due to be questioned, including President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, his political rival.

President Fernandez, who was a senator at the time, voted against the bill and is not accused of taking a bribe.

President Fernando de la Rua leaves the Casa Rosada in a helicopter in 2001 Dramatic exit: the president leaves the Casa Rosada as the economy collapses

A verdict is not expected till next year.

Among the witnesses is a former parliamentary secretary, Mario Pontaquarto, who says Mr de la Rua gave him instructions to hand out the bribes.

The employment reform law, which made it easier for companies to sack staff, had the backing of the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF was demanding public-sector cuts and pro-business reforms in order to approve new loans to Argentina's troubled economy.

Eventually, the IMF refused to extend more loans.

Mr de la Rua's unpopular austerity measures led to riots in Buenos Aires.

In December 2001, after days of clashes in the city centre, the president resigned and famously left the presidential palace in a helicopter.

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