Former Argentine military dictator, Jorge Videla (pictured), was handed a life sentence Wednesday for crimes against humanity during Argentina’s notorious "Dirty War" period. Videla was military chief between 1976 and 1981.
AFP - A former Argentine military dictator, Jorge Videla, was Wednesday sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity including the torture and murder of dissidents, a court here ruled.
Videla, an 85-year-old former army general who ran Argentina between 1976 and 1981, was one of 30 people put on trial for atrocities carried out in that period.
He accepted responsibility for his actions during the regime's infamous "dirty war" against
After seizing power in a coup in March 1976, Argentina’s military junta perfected the method of forced disappearances to get rid of their opponents and their families, including trade union members, students, journalists and others. Thousands of people were kidnapped, tortured in secret detention centres and killed. Many were buried in unmarked graves, others thrown drugged and still alive into the sea from helicopters during a “flight of death”.
An estimated 30,000 people disappeared (known as the "desaparecidos") during the brutal "Dirty War" dictatorship from 1976-1983, including 18 French nationals.
"subversives," but denied human rights violations.
He also defiantly told the court he was a political prisoner who had been unjustly convicted.
Videla was ordered incarcerated for the rest of his life in a federal penitentiary under civilian, not military, rules.
"Videla... is a manifestation of state terrorism," judge Maria Elba Martinez said as she handed down the sentence.
Videla came to power at the head of a military junta following the 1976 coup that toppled the government of Isabel Peron.
The brutal regime was accused of making some 30,000 people "disappear," including by throwing them from aircraft in night flights over the sea.
It operated 500 clandestine detention centers across the country where tens of thousands of people were held, many subjected to torture and death.
Argentina's military government fell in 1983, a year after Videla's successor, Leopoldo Galtieri, waged an unsuccessful war against Britain for the Falkland Islands.
Videla's trial began July 2 with the ex-dictator acknowledging responsibility for "cruel" acts on his watch but refusing to recognize the court.
In a pre-sentence hearing Tuesday he repeated that position.
"I assume full responsibility... My subordinates were only following orders," he said.
"I claim the honor of victory and I regret the consequences," Videla said.
The charges against him included the abduction, torture and murder of 40 people, including a German student, Rolf Stawowiok, whose disappearance in 1978 prompted Berlin to ask for Videla's extradition.
The former strongman was previously tried and sentenced in 1985 in Argentina to life in prison, but was pardoned five years later by then-president Carlos Menem.
A 2007 verdict finding Videla's pardon unconstitutional set the scene for the new trial, which included charges that his regime stole babies from dissident prisoners.
Prosecuted alongside Videla was General Luciano Menendez, 83, who as head of the army's third corps was responsible for 11 provinces and has already been sentenced to three life terms for rights violations.
At a separate trial Tuesday, three former military officials of the regime each received life in prison for crimes against humanity, including "unlawful deprivation of liberty" and "aggravated torture."
More than 130 people have been convicted of crimes committed during the military dictatorship, according to a report published last month, with dozens more currently on trial.
Date created : 2010-12-22