Powerful southern Indian politician cleared of corruption

AP News
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Posted: May 11, 2015 10:46 AM
Powerful southern Indian politician cleared of corruption

NEW DELHI (AP) — An appeals court acquitted a powerful politician in southern India of corruption charges Monday, clearing the way for Jayaram Jayalalitha to return to public office.

Supporters from Jayalalitha's party cheered, set off firecrackers and danced in the streets of the Tamil Nadu state capital of Chennai, her hometown, after the Karnataka High Court in Bangalore delivered its verdict.

The 67-year-old Jayalalitha, a film star in her youth, said the verdict showed the case had been "foisted (on me) by political enemies."

"It has confirmed that I have done no wrong," she said in a statement issued from Chennai.

In throwing out the case, Justice C.R. Kumaraswamy said the prosecution had failed to prove Jayalalitha was guilty. He also acquitted three of Jayalalitha's aides.

She was forced last year to step down as the highest elected official in Tamil Nadu after a Bangalore court in September convicted her of possessing wealth disproportionate to her income and sentenced her to four years in prison.

She spent 21 days in jail before the Supreme Court granted her bail, after she argued that she needed medical attention for diabetes and high blood pressure.

Meanwhile, her lawyers appealed the conviction stemming from 1996 accusations of amassing 660 million rupees ($11 million) at a time when she was taking a token 1 rupee as her monthly salary. They said the rival party in office, the DMK, had inflated the value of her assets, which they said had been obtained legally.

Jayalalitha joined politics in the early 1980s after a successful film career that included appearances in nearly 150 movies. She has had three stints as chief minister of Tamil Nadu, including her latest one, which began in May 2011.