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Milagro Sala, the leader of the Tupac Amaru social welfare group, gestures during her trial in San Salvador de Jujuy, Argentina, December 28, 2016. Picture taken on December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Gianni Bulacio(reuters_tickers)
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentine social activist Milagro Sala was granted house arrest and released from prison on Thursday, state news agency Telam reported, after more than a year of pre-trial detention that drew scrutiny from international human rights groups.
Sala, leader of the Tupac Amaru social welfare group in the northern Jujuy province and a close ally of former populist President Cristina Fernandez, was jailed and charged with "sedition" in January 2016 after protesting in front of provincial government offices.
She was later charged with corruption based on longstanding allegations that she had skimmed public money that Tupac Amaru received to run housing programs. In December, she was sentenced to three-years' probation on allegations she incited violence at a 2009 protest, though she remained jailed on other charges.
Several human rights groups called her detention arbitrary, and the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) called on Argentina to release her. Last month, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), a division of the OAS, recommended house arrest for Sala.
She has denied the allegations and said she is a victim of political persecution. President Mauricio Macri has justified her detention and said the case is entirely within the jurisdiction of Jujuy province.
Sala's release comes as Macri's administration faces criticism from human rights groups over the whereabouts of 28-year-old Santiago Maldonado, a protester who has been missing since security forces clashed with indigenous activists in Patagonia for a month ago.
(Reporting by Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Sandra Maler)