Former Argentine general gets life sentenceJuly 25th, 2008 - 4:26 pm ICT by IANS
Buenos Aires, July 25 (DPA) One of Argentina’s most feared former generals has been handed a life sentence, 31 years after crimes committed during 1976-83 military dictatorship in the country. A court in Cordoba, Argentina’s second largest city, ruled late Thursday that Luciano Benjamin Menendez, 81, was responsible for the kidnapping, torture and murder of four opposition party members in 1977 during the period known as the “Dirty War.”
Four other former army members and police officers facing the same charges were also sentenced to life imprisonment. Three others were handed prison sentences of 18 to 22 years.
Menendez, who was in charge of the regional 3rd Army Corps in Cordoba province from 1975 to 1979, is the highest-ranking officer to be found guilty of crimes during Argentina’s military dictatorship since 1986.
The Cordoba trial was only made possible as former president Nestor Kirchner, in office from 2003-07, scuttled amnesty laws introduced by Raul Alfonsin, the country’s first president after the end of the dictatorship.
The infamous La Perla torture camp, controlled by Menendez, was located in Cordoba. About 2,300 victims were hauled off to the camp. Only 17 survived.
Human rights organisations estimated that 30,000 people were murdered during the military rule.
Relatives of the victims and human rights organisations hailed verdicts, stressing the fact that Menendez, who was under house arrest for previous Dirty War convictions, and the others convicted had to serve their terms in normal prisons.
During Alfonsin’s tenure, convicted military leaders were detained in special prisons equipped with tennis courts and other amenities.
In court, an unrepentant Menendez accused the current government of Peronist President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of being made up of “terrorists” from the 1970s and ’80s.
“Argentine society was involved in a war provoked by international Marxists, the same people that still persist in their obscure aim,” Menendez told the court.