Fernando De la Rua, Argentina's former president, has been cleared of bribery charges.

An Argentine court found on Monday that de la Rua was innocent of bribing senators to pass a controversial work reform bill as the country's economy neared bankruptcy more than a decade ago.

De la Rua and seven others, including a former labour minister, senators and a congressional worker, were absolved of charges of paying out bribes estimated at $5m to a group of senators for their support in a labour law that would have weakened workers rights, as the country faced an economic collapse 13 years ago.

It was a political plot from the beginning. This acquittal vindicates my dignity and my government.

Fernando De la Rua, former president of Argentina

De la Rua said the trial, which has lasted almost two years, was politically motivated.

A key witness for prosecutors had been de la Rua's parliamentary secretary Mario Pontaquarto who pleaded guilty to charges and said the former president had ordered him to offer the bribes.

But judges ruled the case against the defendant was not strong enough.

Welcoming the court's decision, de la Rua said outside the court that case against him was politically motivated.

"This trial of almost two years and 300 testimonies demonstrated there were no suspicions of corruption of my government and made this clear," he said.

"Furthermore, it served to demonstrate that it was slurs from the beginning to the end and it was not successful. It was a political plot from the beginning. This acquittal vindicates my dignity and my government." 

De la Rua gave up Argentina's presidency in 2001 amid growing social and economic unrest and an epic financial collapse that plunged millions into poverty.

Prosecutors can appeal against the verdict.

Source: Agencies