Argentina exhumes ex-president's son after murder claims

BUENOS AIRES - The remains of a son of former Argentine president Carlos Menem were exhumed Wednesday amid charges that the young man, who died in a 1995 helicopter crash, was actually murdered.

Federal Judge Carlos Villafuerte Ruzo ordered the exhumation to determine if the body in the burial plot was indeed that of Carlos Menem junior, or if the body had been switched.

The official story is that the 26-year-old, known as "Carlitos", died when the helicopter he was piloting crashed in March 1995.

The accident ocurred just before Menem, who was president from 1989 to 1999, was re-elected to office.

But Menem's mother Zulema Yoma - the ex-president's former wife - is convinced that her son was murdered.

The remains were exhumed from the Muslim cemetery of San Justo, on the western edge of Buenos Aires.

Forensic experts will carry out a DNA test on the cranium and other parts of the body, and send the results to Yoma and Menem, who is now 86, Yoma's attorney Diego Storto told reporters.

The death of several witnesses and the lack of a expert report on the helicopter crash have fueled Yoma's theory that her son was murdered.

Judge Villafuerte Ruzo initially ruled that the crash was an accident, and Yoma turned to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights after Argentina's Supreme Court said the case was closed.

The former president had two children with Yoma, his first wife: Carlos junior and Zulemita.

He had another son, 13 year-old Maximo Saul, with his second wife, the Chilean actress Cecilia Bolocco.

The couple split in 2007.

Menem also recognised a third son, 34 year-old Carlos Nair, from an extramarital affair.

He has been a senator since 2005, a job that grants him parliamentary immunity and has allowed him to avoid a prison sentence for smuggling guns to Croatia and Ecuador during his presidency.