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Argentine ex-leader faces kidnapping trial

Reynaldo Bignone allegedly took children of 'dirty war' victims.

April 24, 2007|From Reuters

BUENOS AIRES — The last de facto president of Argentina's 1976-83 military dictatorship must stand trial on charges that he kidnapped children of those killed in the country's "dirty war," a judge ruled Monday.

Reynaldo Bignone and six other high-ranking officers will face prosecution in a case investigating allegations that some children of slain dissidents were handed over to members of the military, federal Judge Guillermo Montenegro ruled.

The charges include "taking, retaining and hiding minors and changing their identities," according to the ruling. No formal court date was set.

A former army general, Bignone was the last of four de facto presidents and took power in mid-1982 after Argentina's defeat in the Falkland Islands war.

Bignone has been under house arrest since March. Many of the junta's other top leaders, including Gen. Jorge Videla and Adm. Emilio Massera, are also facing similar charges.

Last year, Bignone told a radio station that the child kidnapping charges are "an invention."

The human rights group Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo says it has traced about 90 children of missing political prisoners and reunited them with their biological families.

The other officers to face trial include former army chief Cristino Nicolaides, former navy chief Ruben Franco and Jorge Acosta, a former marine.

A government report says at least 9,000 people died or disappeared during the seven-year crackdown on leftist dissent. Human rights groups say the number is closer to 30,000.

After Argentina's dictatorship ended, many military officers were tried on charges of abduction, torture and execution of suspected opponents. They were imprisoned in 1985 and pardoned in 1990.

In 2005, Argentina's Supreme Court repealed two amnesty laws shielding military officers from prosecution, clearing the way for hundreds to be tried.

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