Two former Presidents on trial over baby theft case in Argentina

March 1st, 2011 - 5:16 am ICT by BNO News  

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (BNO NEWS) — A tribunal on Monday began the trial against two former presidents and six former military leaders over a baby theft case during the last military dictatorship in Argentina, the state-run Telam news agency reported.

Former presidents Jorge Rafael Videla and Reynaldo Benito Bignone are accused of participating in the systematic theft of about 30 babies from political prisoners who died or disappeared during the 1976-1983 military regime.

In addition, doctor Jorge Magnacco and former military leaders Rubén Franco, Antonio Vañek, Santiago Riveros, Jorge Acosta and Juan Azic are also accused of being involved in the plot.

The trial, which is being broadcasted, began at about 10:55 a.m. local time at the TOF 6 tribunal. It is expected that the process will last all year. This is the first time that Argentina’s military leaders are prosecuted for taking, retaining and hiding minors and changing their identities.

The human rights group “Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo” (Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo) announced that 102 cases of minors who were stolen have recovered their biologic identity.

The defendants could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. The cases of 34 minors will be judged during the trial in which it is estimated that approximately 370 witnesses will testify.

Former president Bignone is currently in custody at the Marcos Paz penitentiary after he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was found guilty of participating in 56 cases of aggravated theft, torture, and other human rights abuses.

On the other hand, Videla was sentenced to life imprisonment over crimes committed against political prisoners in 1976. He was convicted along former general Luciano Benjamin Menendez for kidnapping, torturing and shooting 31 prisoners.

The 85-year-old former dictator was also found partially responsible of directing torture, murder, and torture that led to death crimes which were perpetrated during his presidential mandate. Videla was previously prosecuted on other charges related to human rights violations.

In 1985, Videla was sentenced to life in prison in an historic trial. However, he was freed in 1990 after then President Carlos Menem pardoned him. Such benefit was revoked in 2005 as the Supreme Court ruled Menem’s pardon as unconstitutional.

Videla is considered as the mind behind the repressive system that caused the death of thousands of people. The Argentine government no longer recognizes Videla and Bignone as having been a legal president of the South American country.

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