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Argentina Dictator goes on trial

By Andrew Moran     Nov 3, 2009 in World
Argentina's last dictator Reynaldo Bignone and five of his generals will begin trial for their human rights crimes on Tuesday more than 25 years ago.
Reynaldo Bignone and five generals were read their charges on Monday for their violations and crimes against human rights more than 25 years ago, according to the Associated Press. Bignone is charged with torturing 56 people and searching them illegally between 1976 and 1978 and then more as he was appointed President in 1982 by the military junta.
The generals who are also facing similar charges are former intelligence chief Fernando Ezequiel Verplaetsen and ex-military officials Santiago Omar Riveros, Eugenio Guanabens Perello, Carlos Alberto Tepedino and German A. Montenegro.
The trial is expected to last until March 2010 with more than 130 witness testifying, which many of them are survivors from Camp de Mayo. Roughly 5,000 students, leftists, intellectuals and other Argentineans were held in the jail. During Bignone’s military dictatorship, thousands of citizens who were against his leadership disappeared or were held in confinement in secret prisons or torture centers.
Al Jazeera notes that the 81-year-old rocked back and forth in his chair as his charges were being read to them. They also report that if convicted they could face life in prison. He is currently living under house arrest.
Justice Minister Julio Alak told CNN, “This is one of the most-anticipated trials by the community and by human rights organizations because of the magnitude of the crimes that were committed there.”
At the court house on Monday, hundreds of the victims’ family members appeared in court showing large photos of their loved ones as each defendant enters the courtroom.
The BBC reports that the lawyer for one of the relatives of one of the victims, Alcira Rios, told Reuters, “This is a historic trial in the search for truth for all of those who disappeared. We have to say no to impunity. We owe it to our Argentine society.”
At least 13,000 people were killed or murdered during the period between 1976 and 1983 but many Human Rights Groups state 30,000 died.
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