MANAGUA -- Nicaragua's Supreme Court overturned on Friday the 2003 corruption conviction of former President Arnoldo Aleman, who was charged with looting tens of millions of dollars during his 1997-2002 administration.
The vote to exonerate Aleman was 4-2.
Though ostensibly still serving a 20-year sentence, the erstwhile head of state has been free to travel without restriction inside Nicaragua for the past year.
The text of Friday's ruling has not been released, but one of the justices who voted against overturning the conviction, Rafael Solis, said the decision was based on reports from the Controller-General's Office and prosecutors contending that no connection had been shown between Aleman and the acts of corruption.
Aleman spent only a few months in prison before he was granted house arrest because of his age - now 62 - and poor health. He suffers from diabetes, hypertension and heart problems, all made worse by the excess pounds that won him the nickname "El Gordo" (Fatso).
Subsequent court decisions authorized the former president to move about the country freely until December 2007, when the Managua Appeals Court restricted Aleman to his home, a ranch near the capital.
Tthat decision was overturned the following month.
Aleman's conviction proved to be no impediment to his continued leadership of one Nicaragua's two main parties, the Liberals.
Nicaraguan media outlets speculated a year ago that the court ruling converting Aleman's jail term to probation was the fruit of a deal between the right-learning Liberals and President Daniel Ortega's left-wing Sandinistas.
Those press accounts linked the favorable ruling for Aleman to the pact the then-president sealed in 1999 with Ortega, under which the Liberals and Sandinistas agreed to share the spoils of power in the form of government posts and judgeships.