Argentina: Trial over baby theft opens at last


After 35 years of campaigning and legal action by the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, the first trial over the systematic theft of babies of political prisoners during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship began Monday.

“It was sad and even repugnant to see the apathy and indifference of the accused, who dozed off while the prosecutor’s report was read out,” 91-year-old Rosa Roisinblit, vice president of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, the organisation that brought the charges, told IPS after the first day of the trial in a Buenos Aires court.

In the dock are former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, 85; the last head of the military junta, Reynaldo Bignone, 83; five prominent army, navy and coast guard officers; and one civilian doctor.

The eight defendants face charges of “taking, retaining, hiding and changing the identities of” 34 children born to political prisoners held in clandestine prisons during the dictatorship.

The opening session of the trial, which could last more than eight months, was attended by representatives of human rights groups, survivors of the “dirty war” against dissidents, and relatives of the victims.

Some 30,000 people were forcibly disappeared during the seven-year dictatorship, according to human rights organisations.

Videla was brought into court in handcuffs because he is serving a life sentence for other crimes against humanity. But as the prosecutor’s report was read, the former dictator dozed off, with his head on another defendant’s shoulder.

“We have no doubt that there is more than enough evidence to prove that this was a systematic plan to steal children,” said Roisinblit, who hopes the defendants will be sentenced to life in prison.

Roisinblit’s only daughter, Patricia, was eight months pregnant when she was kidnapped in 1978. Patricia’s husband, José Pérez, was also forcibly disappeared, and they left behind a 15-month-old daughter, who was raised by her grandparents.

Inter Press Services for more

Comments are closed.