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Videla And Bignone On Trial For Baby Thefts In Argentina’s “Dirty War”

March 1, 2011 By Staff

Former Argentine head of state Jorge Videla.

Today in Latin America

Top Story — Former Argentine dictators Jorge Rafael Videla and Reynaldo Bignone are on trial on charges they presided over a plot to steal babies from political prisoners during their rules.

The former dictators are accused of kidnapping some 30 children whose parents died or disappeared during the 1976-83 military rule, in which the Argentine government waged what is known as the “Dirty War.” Six other people are also on trial,  including ex-officers and a doctor.

More than 100 children weren given for adoption to military or police couples during this period.

The theft of children was “one of the darkest episodes in Argentina’s history,” said federal prosecutor Federico Delgado, according to The Telegraph.

The case opened 14 years ago at the request of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a leading human rights group, and it may take up to a year to hear testimony from about 370 witnesses.

Videla, 85, has been sentenced to life in prison, and Bignone, 83, is serving a 25-year term for other crimes committed during the 1976-1983 dictatorship. There are 13,000 people on the official list of those killed, although rights groups estimate as many as 30,000 died.

“This trial is necessary to set things straight,” said Leonardo Fossati, whose mother was three months pregnant when she was kidnapped in 1977. “For a long time now, they have denied there was a systematic plan to steal babies.”

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[…] Latin America News Dispatch reports that former dictators Jorge Rafael Videla (at left) and Reynaldo Bognone are at last on trial for their knowledge of and participation in the theft of the babies of “disappeared” political prisoners during the country’s “Dirty War.” Six others – former military officers and a doctor – are also on trial.             At least 400 children are estimated to have been stolen during the military dictatorship. Videla and Bognone are specifically charged with “taking, retaining and hiding minors and changing their identities” in the cases of only 30. Both men are in their 80’s, and are already serving long prison terms for other crimes during the dictatorship. The trial is expected to take at least a year.            Human rights groups estimate that as many as 30,000 people were “disappeared” during the period of military rule, from 1976-83. The “official” list totals 13,000. Many were young students or activists, tortured in the regime’s secret prisons before being murdered, and there is evidence that pregnant women were kept alive until they delivered, so that their babies could be turned over to military and police families who wished to adopt.            Demand for the prosecution of those responsible has been spearheaded by the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. The well-known human rights group has also been instrumental in efforts to identify stolen children and give them the opportunity to reunite with those who survive of their birth families. Over a hundred – now young adults – have been enabled to recover their true identities. “This trial is necessary to set things straight,” said Leonardo Fossati, whose mother was three months pregnant when she was kidnapped in 1977. “For a long time now, they have denied there was a systematic plan to steal babies.”  […]

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