Argentina trial starts into gun attack on ex-President Cristina Kirchner

By Noelle Harff

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - An Argentina court began the oral trial on Wednesday against three individuals accused of attempting to assassinate former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in September 2022, when she was attacked with a loaded pistol that failed to fire.

The attack against the country's most prominent politician for the last two decades shocked the South American nation and drew condemnation from political leaders around the world, including Argentine Pope Francis and the White House.

The trial centers around Fernando Sabag Montiel, a Brazilian national resident in Argentina, who physically pointed the gun at Kirchner's head amid crowds outside her home in Buenos Aires. Kirchner was at the time vice president.

Also on trail is Brenda Uliarte, Montiel's ex-girlfriend. The pair face charges of up to 15 years for attempted premeditated homicide. Another man, Nicolas Carrizo, was also connected to the assassination attempt and is facing charges.

Kirchner, president between 2007 and 2015, is a divisive figure in Argentina, where she commands rockstar crowds but also has many critics of her brand of left-wing populism. She is part of the more militant left of the powerful Peronist movement.

In December 2022, Kirchner herself was handed a six-year jail term and disqualified from holding public office in a high-profile corruption case. She is appealing the sentence, with the case likely to spend years winding through higher courts.

The oral trial into the gun attack is likely to last up to a year, with over 200 witnesses expected to be called. The suspects remain in custody.

Defense lawyers have argued that the pistol was not capable of firing, while Kirchner has criticized the investigation and the courts, alleging a cover-up of an alleged wider conspiracy, including by her political opponents.

(Reporting by Noelle Harff; Editing by Josie Kao)