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Imelda Marcos Ordered Arrested

An anti-graft court ordered the arrest of former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos on Tuesday on charges of stashing $28 million in illegal wealth in Swiss banks.

But lawyers for Marcos, the flamboyant 72-year-old widow of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, said she would post bail to avoid spending time in jail.

"This is pure harassment... I don't know why they are reviving this," an aide quoted Marcos as saying on hearing of the arrest order.

The Sandiganbayan anti-graft court issued four arrest warrants against Marcos in connection with four separate charges of maintaining bank accounts containing wealth she and her husband allegedly amassed illegally during their days in power.

The cases were among more than 100 criminal and civil suits filed by state prosecutors in 1991 and 1992 against the Marcos family and associates.

These cases have languished in courts for a decade, stalled on technicalities and outlasting three governments.

"The arrest order just came down from the court," sheriff Ed Urieta told Reuters by telephone. "We are going to serve it now."

Marcos' lawyers said she would post a bond of 120,000 pesos (about $2,350) - an amount fixed by the law - so she would not spend a minute in jail.

But officials said the once powerful former first lady would still be required to appear in court to be finger-printed.

Marcos has denied charges that she and her family amassed illegal wealth during her husband's rule, saying the former dictator was a wealthy man even before he became president.

Ferdinand Marcos ruled the Philippines with an iron rod for 20 years until he was ousted in a people power revolt in 1986. He and his family fled to Hawaii, where he died three years later.

His widow has refused to bury his chemically preserved corpse, keeping it in a glass casket in his northern home province of Ilocos Norte, awaiting the rise of a government that would allow him to be interred in Manila, the capital.

Prosecutors in the numerous cases against the Marcoses have accused them and their business associates of amassing billions of dollars during Marcos's rule. Some estimate the amount of Marcos's assets at $13 billion.

Switzerland has turned over more than $500 million of Marcos-linked assets to an escrow account in a Philippine bank pending a court ruling on who the money rightfully belongs to.

The government, the Marcoses and thousands of victims of human rights abuses under the Marcos regime are now battling for control of the account.

The Sandiganbayan court in 1993 convicted Imelda Marcos of graft in a separate case and sentenced her to 12 years in jail.

The Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 1998 and acquitted her.

Tuesday's arrest order are the latest twist in a colorful saga of a former beauty queen who rose from poverty to become the most powerful woman in the country.

Even after her fall from grace in 1986, Marcos continued to display a love of flamboyance and wealth thahas marked her life.

No matter what she does, she will never live down one of her most infamous luxurious habits: buying and owning a tremendous number of pairs of shoes.

But shoes aren't her only weakness.

To this day, poor Filipinos gawk at the sight of the glittering jewels she wears at rare public events.

Earlier this month, the government said it would auction this year some of the gems which the state seized from her.

These include a tiara studded with diamonds and gems which aides say she bought years ago from impoverished European royalty.

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