Nicaragua's former president jailed

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Arnoldo Aleman, the former president of Nicaragua, has been convicted of corruption and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment and a fine of US$10m (£5.8m).

The sentence should put an end to Aleman's grip on the ruling Constitutionalist Liberal Party, where his authority has endured despite charges he diverted US$100m in government funds to his party's election campaigns.

Judge Juana Mendez cited crimes of fraud, misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement, criminal association and electoral violations endangering the state in her sentencing on Sunday against Aleman, who was president from 1997 to January 2002. Ms Mendez also stripped Aleman of his ability to serve in Nicaragua's legislature.

The judge described how Aleman and his aides formed anonymous societies in Panama, where public funds from Nicaragua were laundered and mixed with political donations. "The money was used for the benefit of Aleman and his family and electoral campaigns," Ms Mendez said.

On his way to becoming president, Aleman rebuilt and renamed Nicaragua's Liberal Party which had been damaged by its association with the Somoza family dictatorship, overthrown by Sandinista rebels in 1979.

Jailed and exiled under the Sandinistas, Aleman became president in 1997, but corruption complaints surfaced during his time in office. His successor, President Enrique Bolaños, launched an anti-corruption campaign that quickly placed him at odds with Aleman and members of his own Constitutionalist Liberal Party.

Aleman, 57, has been diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension and heart problems, and is likely to serve his sentence at his El Chile ranch 17 miles south of Managua because of health concerns.