South Asia

Jayalalitha questioned in Indian court over corruption

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha
Image caption A former actress, Ms Jayalalitha has served as chief minister three times

Prosecutors have begun questioning the controversial chief minister of India's Tamil Nadu state, Jayaram Jayalalitha, in a corruption case against her.

She is accused of amassing huge amounts of wealth during a previous term as chief minister between 1991 and 1996. She denies the allegation.

The case was transferred from Madras (Chennai) in Tamil Nadu to Bangalore, capital of neighbouring Karnataka state, to ensure a fair trial.

Security was tight for her appearance.

Known as the "empress of the south", Ms Jayalalitha led her AIADMK party to a spectacular victory in state elections earlier this year. It is her third term as chief minister.

But she is accused of amassing $13.6m (£8.5m) between 1991 and 1996, during her first term as chief minister.

In what is known as a "disproportionate assets" case, prosecutors allege that this sum exceeds what she should have earned once all legally held assets and sources of income were taken into account.

Ms Jayalalitha had asked to be exempted from making a personal appearance citing security concerns but the court rejected her request.

The Supreme Court ordered authorities to ensure tight security for Ms Jayalalitha who has been a target for Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka because of her tough stance towards them. The rebels were defeated by the Sri Lankan army in 2009.

She arrived in a cavalcade at the court on Thursday morning where more than 1,000 policemen were on security duty.

"The security is unprecedented. Lawyers too are not being allowed inside," a police officer told the BBC.

A former actress, she is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians.

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