A court has absolved former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo of charges that he stole $15 million from the country's Defense Department.
A panel of judges voted 2-1 Monday night to absolve Portillo and his former ministers of finance and defense.
Portillo remains in prison because he faces an extradition request from the United States, on charges of embezzling $1.5 million in foreign donations.
Portillo, who governed from 2000-2004, expressed satisfaction after Monday night's ruling, while his supporters set off fireworks outside the criminal court in celebration.
Attorney General Claudia Paz said she would appeal the ruling, which also drew protest from the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, a U.N. agency created to battle corruption and crime in Guatemala.
The commission, which helped investigate and prosecute the case against Portillo, said in a statement Tuesday that it "is convinced that we brought convincing evidence _ forensics, documents and witnesses _ to convict the three defendants. As soon as the full ruling is divulged, we will, along with state prosecutors, exhaust all possibilities within Guatemalan law to reverse this impunity."
Two of the judges ruled that prosecutors failed to prove through documents or witnesses that Portillo was personally involved in embezzling the funds.
The judges also dismissed the credibility of two key witnesses, including Armando Llort, the former president of a state-owned bank, who testified that he had passed three loads each of 30 million quetzales ($3.5 million) from the bank to the head of Portillo's security detail. The money had allegedly been diverted from a Guatemalan army bank account to the state-owned bank.
Judge Morelia Rios said in her dissenting opinion that she believed prosecutors had proved Portillo was responsible for the crime.
Portillo is also charged in a New York federal court with embezzling $1.5 million in foreign donations intended to buy school library books in Guatemala. He allegedly endorsed checks drawn from a New York bank and deposited them in a Miami account.
After leaving office in 2004, Portillo fled to Mexico where he received a work visa and was a financial adviser for a construction materials company.
He was extradited from Mexico to Guatemala in 2008 to face the embezzlement charges at home and remained free until he was arrested on Jan. 26, 2010 on the U.S. extradition request. He was captured at a beach preparing to flee Guatemala by boat.