India politician jailed for graft granted bail

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW DELHI (AP) — Southern India's powerful politician Jayaram Jayalalitha was released on bail Saturdayl, 22 days after being convicted of corruption and sentenced to four years behind bars.

The 65-year-old former film star walked out of a prison in the southern city of Bangalore. Jayalalitha was forced to step down as the highest elected official in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, after a Bangalore court last month found her guilty of possessing wealth disproportionate to her income.

The Supreme Court on Friday granted her bail, after she argued that she needed medical attention for diabetes and high blood pressure. She has also asked a lower court to suspend her sentence while she appeals her conviction.

She was taken by car from the Bangalore prison to her home in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, where she has been ordered to remain at home while on bail. Jubilant supporters celebrated in the streets by dancing and beating drums.

The court warned that it would cancel her bail unless she provided all documents related to the corruption case by Dec. 18, and said it expected her to maintain calm among her supporters.

"I request all to maintain peace, law and order," she said in a statement. "I appeal to my beloved Tamils, my supporters and my party men not to criticize judgments or the judges who delivered them or the court proceedings. "

Jayalalitha was accused in 1996 of amassing 660 million rupees ($11 million) at a time when she was taking a token 1 rupee as her monthly salary.

Cases move so slowly through India's overburdened judicial system that decades may go by without a verdict.

Jayalalitha joined politics in the early 1980s after a successful film career in southern India that included appearances in nearly 150 movies. She has had three stints as chief minister of Tamil Nadu, including her latest one, which began in May 2011.