Former Argentinean junta ruler (86) jailed for 50 years for baby thefts
A FORMER dictator in Argentina was handed a 50-year prison sentence last night for the systematic stealing of babies from pregnant women kidnapped by his military government.
Jorge Videla, 86, was de facto president of Argentina from 1976 to 1981. He is already serving a life sentence for human rights abuses that occurred under his rule.
Videla was found guilty by a criminal court of the “theft and kidnapping” of 20 babies.
Reynaldo Bignone, 84, Argentina’s last dictator before the country’s return to democracy in 1983, was sentenced to 15 years for the same offence.
He, too, is already serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity – including the establishment of a torture centre in a hospital during the coup that brought the military to power.
Jorge Acosta, known as ‘The Tiger’, received a 30-year sentence and Antonio Vañek was condemned to 40 years.
They headed the military’s largest clandestine detention centre during its Dirty War against left-wing subversion.
In total, 11 men were found guilty by the court and given prison sentences.
During the case, Videla denied he had given orders to steal the babies. He has repeatedly been accused of remorselessness by human rights groups.
The trial, which began in February 2011, sought to establish the true identities of around 400 infants stolen by the regime.
It proved that 35 babies were stolen. Some were born in captivity while others were kidnapped at a very young age together with their parents. The infants were often raised by families linked to the dictatorship.
Twenty-six people were able to recuperate their identities.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the court in Buenos Aires to celebrate.
“It’s a historic day,” said Taty Almeyda of the Mothers of the Plaza de Maya, a human rights group formed by women who had their children ‘disappeared’ during the dictatorship.
“It’s important that we’ve shown the crimes were systematic. But we won’t stop here.”
An estimated 30,000 people were killed during the Dirty War.
Juan García, the son of a desaparecido – the name in Spanish for those people taken by the state and murdered without their whereabouts ever being revealed – was dumped in an orphanage in 1976 after his father, a member of the Montoneros guerrilla group, was murdered.
“We’ll continue this fight for justice,” he told The Daily Telegraph.