Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

ENCORE!

Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday : The Best of the Bard

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

The Tour de France, a PR machine

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the third plane crash in one week - from France, Algeria and Burkina Faso

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the plane crash that took 116 lives - almost half of them French

Read more

DEBATE

Gaza: A Truce At All Costs?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Brazzaville ceasefire talks deliver fragile deal

Read more

FOCUS

Sluggish tourist season in Crimea

Read more

ENCORE!

Bartabas : Mixing Christ with Spanish music and dancing horses

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Shifts in the propaganda war waged between Israelis and Palestinians

Read more

  • Live: ‘No survivors’ from Algerian plane crash, says Hollande

    Read more

  • French families grieve for Algerian plane crash victims

    Read more

  • Protest against Gaza offensive turns deadly in West Bank

    Read more

  • Ukraine names acting PM after Yatseniuk's shock resignation

    Read more

  • Deadly strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • Wreckage of Algeria plane found in Mali

    Read more

  • BNP to pay $80 million for defrauding Dept of Agriculture

    Read more

  • Pope meets Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan

    Read more

  • Air Algérie crash: 'We should eliminate the missile hypothesis'

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • US, European agencies lift travel restrictions to Tel Aviv

    Read more

  • No end to fighting until Israel ends Gaza blockade, Hamas says

    Read more

Americas

Former 'Dirty War' military ruler goes on trial

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-11-03

Reynaldo Bignone, the last military ruler of Argentina’s “Dirty War” era, is facing trial for crimes committed during his regime’s crackdown on leftwing activists and other opposition figures.

REUTERS - The last military president in Argentina's 1976-1983 dictatorship went on trial on Monday in a makeshift courtroom in a sports arena on charges of kidnapping, torture and murder of 56 people in a concentration camp.

Frail-looking Reynaldo Bignone, 81, a former general who ruled Argentina in 1982-1983, and seven other former military and police officers faced a three-judge panel on charges including the ordering of beatings, waterboardings and electrocutions at the Campo de Mayo army base.

Waterboarding is a form of simulated drowning widely considered torture.

Hundreds of people, including numerous relatives of the victims, turned out for the start of the trial, held in an indoor soccer arena in a Buenos Aires suburb because the local courthouse was not big enough to house the large number of people who wanted to attend the proceedings.

According to a government report, more than 11,000 people died or disappeared during Argentina's "Dirty War," a crackdown on leftists and other opponents of the military regime. Human rights groups say the number is closer to 30,000.

"This is a historic trial in the search for truth for the all of those who disappeared," Alcira Rios, a lawyer for relatives of one of the victims, told Reuters. "We have to say no to impunity. We owe it to our Argentine society."

Bignone rocked back and forth in his chair as the charges against him were read in court. He and the other defendants could face up to life in prison if convicted in a trial that could last up to five months.

More than 130 witnesses are expected to be called to testify against the elderly defendants, starting next week.

Also standing trial are former generals Santiago Omar Riveros, Eugenio Guanabens Perello and Fernando Exequiel Verplaetsen and former colonels Jorge Osvaldo Garcia, Carlos Alberto Tepedino and Eduardo Alfredo Esposito. Former police officer German Montenegro also went on trial.

During the trial's opening day, Verplaetsen was removed from the proceedings due to illness.

'They have committed genocide'

The accused "look like old men but they have committed genocide," Taty Almeida, a member of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group, said in an interview in the courtroom during a break in the proceedings.

Almeida's son, Alejandro Martinez, was a 20-year-old medical student in 1975 when he was kidnapped and murdered by the military. "When I see them there I feel repulsed but I also feel a great deal of achievement because they're being put on trial," Taty Almeida added.

Bignone, who is currently living under house arrest, was the last of four military de facto presidents in Argentina during the dictatorship.

He handed over the presidency to Raul Alfonsin, the country's first democratically elected leader after the dictatorship ended in 1983, as the military junta lost popularity over a deep economic crisis and a humiliating defeat in the war against Britain for the Falkland Islands.

In 2005, Argentina's Supreme Court, at the urging of then-President Nestor Kirchner, struck down two amnesty laws that shielded hundreds of former officers from charges of human rights abuses during the dictatorship. Since then, several people have been convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison.

 

Date created : 2009-11-03

  • ARGENTINA

    Retired general given life sentence for crimes during dictatorship

    Read more

COMMENT(S)