Argentine judge accuses ex-leader over 2001 deaths

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BUENOS AIRES, Oct 23 (Reuters) An Argentine judge has accused former president Fernando de la Rua of failing to prevent the killing of five protesters in 2001 during an economic crisis, the judge's office said today.

Federal judge Claudio Bonadio is investigating deaths and injuries during a clash between demonstrators and police in the streets of Buenos Aires at the height of the 2001-2002 crisis.

The turmoil forced De la Rua to resign and he later fled Argentina's presidential palace in a helicopter.

The judge's accusation does not amount to a formal indictment, but it orders authorities to freeze 6.2 million dollar of the former leader's assets.

A text of the case document says De la Rua ''did not use the tools'' available to him as head of state to prevent the bloodshed.

De la Rua, who took office in 1999, declared a state of siege as thousands of Argentines took to the streets to demand his resignation.

If the accusation is confirmed by a higher court, the case will go to trial.

REUTERS GL PM2150

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