Imelda Marcos is sentenced to at least six years in prison

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Imelda Marcos was found guilty of corruption on Friday and handed a lengthy prison term in a rare conviction for the former Philippine first lady accused with her late dictator husband of embezzling billions of dollars from state coffers.

The widow of the late dictator is facing dozens of protracted graft cases that have hounded her since her family was toppled in an army-backed popular uprising in 1986.

An arrest warrant was ordered for Marcos because she failed to appear in court.

"We treat this decision by the anti-graft court as a good reminder to all public servants that public office is a public trust and that we are all accountable to the people we serve", Panelo said. Anti-Marcos activists and human rights victims welcomed the conviction as long overdue.

Bank documents left behind in the couple's haste to flee the presidential palace were used to build the case against Imelda, which has been ongoing since 1991.

The court said Imelda, now a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, can have a provisional liberty if she posts a cash bond while appealing the conviction.

Neither Marcos nor her lawyers were present at the promulgation of the decision. Imelda and her children have always denied any wrongdoing.

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Imelda is running for governor in Ilocos Norte, a province in the northern tip of the Philippines' main Luzon Island, in the 2019 midterm elections.

Ferdinand Marcos ruled the Philippines for two decades, placing the country under martial law in 1972, during which time thousands of opponents were jailed, killed or disappeared. His family is said to have amassed an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion while he was in power.

The Marcos family remains highly influential in the Philippines.

President Rodrigo Duterte, an ally of the Marcoses, said previous year the Marcos family had indicated a willingness to return a still-unspecified amount of money and "a few gold bars" to help ease budget deficits.

He allowed Marcos' embalmed body to be buried at a special heroes' cemetery in 2016, and is often accompanied at official events by Imee.

"Duterte's spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said in a statement the ruling against Imelda Marcos was proof that the executive "is not in the business of exerting undue interference or influence" on courts, and therefore respects the decision".