A court in El Salvador has ordered the house arrest of a former president after he turned himself in ahead of his trial on corruption charges.

Francisco Flores, who was president of the Central American country from 1999 to 2004, will be allowed to remain
under house arrest for the duration of the trial, judiciary spokesman Ulises Marinero said on Friday.

Flores, who had been on the run since January and was believed to have been in Panama, had turned up unexpectedly with his lawyer at a San Salvador court earlier on Friday.

He is accused of misappropriating $15m donated by Taiwan for earthquake relief efforts in 2001.

"I presented myself voluntarily and in respect of the law. I don't think I'll be able to make any other comments right now," Flores said, flanked by police as he left the courtroom.

After the hearing, police transported Flores unhandcuffed to his residence in the upscale Colonia San Benito district, west of the capital, where he will remain under 24-hour surveillance.

Protests

Dozens of people had gathered outside the courtroom to protest against the former president's alleged corruption, calling for his imprisonment.

Prosecuting lawyer Bertha de Leon told reporters the prosecution would appeal against the judge's decision, arguing that Flores should be imprisoned after being on the run for months.

"For us, the judge's decision is not technically correct; for us, the judge has ignored what needed to be done; he has ignored the circumstances and the facts, and has favoured him with this decision," she said.

Flores' alleged corruption came to light when former President Mauricio Funes, who ruled the country from 2009 to 2014, revealed that the United States was investigating Flores for suspicious payments into his bank accounts.

According to the allegations against him, the money Flores received came from former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, who was found guilty of corruption in 2009 and imprisoned, originally for life before his sentence was reduced.

An Interpol red notice, the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant, had been issued against Flores before he surrendered to the court.

Source: Agencies