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Mendoza: ‘Trial of the judges’ begins today

Former judge Otilio Romano (middle) was extradited from Chile to Mendoza last September 4, 2013 after he escaped to due to crimes against humanity charges committed in the last military dictatorship.

Former judge Otilio Romano, other court officials will be tried for crimes against humanity

The first trial investigating the complicity of judges in crimes against humanity committed during the last military dictatorship — known as the “trial of the judges” — will begin today in Mendoza province, where four judges are charged among 41 people in a landmark trial for human rights violations made against more than 200 victims.

Before the trial begins, Attorney General Alejandra Gils Carbó will participate in a ceremony in front of the Mendoza province’s judicial headquarters along with other national government officials and local human rights organizations. The 41 people charged in a “mega-trial” include military officers, police official, prison security guards and former judges, prosecutors and defence attorney’s of the Federal Justice system.

More than 200 witnesses will be called before the Federal Court No. 1 to testify over the incidents that occurred in the clandestine detention and torture centre known as “D2,” the military academy General Espejo and the Boulogne Sur Mer prison.

The judicial authorities who are up for trial are former judges Otilio Romano, Luis Miret, Gabriel Guzzo, Rolando Carrizo and Guillermo Petra, who are all accused of facilitating the army’s plan in not investigating reports of arrests and disappearances. The case of former judge Romano is one of the most well known because after he was charged before the Magistrates Council in 2011 and a day before his suspension from his judicial duties, he escaped to Chile requesting political exile in order to evade the Argentine justice system.

The fugitive remained in that country until the Chilean Supreme Court ordered his return after his extradition was requested here. Upon his arrival in Mendoza in September 2013, he was transferred to the San Felipe Prison in the same ward where other people charged for crimes against humanity committed in the last military dictatorship were held.

“Romano has been a strongman within the federal judiciary during the dictatorship and during all these years of democracy he also was one of the main obstacles in attempts to investigate crimes against humanity” human rights lawyer Diego Lavado said. “This is a person who directly participated in the years of state terrorism, and also in democracy later.”

The Attorney’s Office highlighted that “this is the first time in the country that a new trial systematically investigating the federal judges, who are not only accused of being accomplices to torture and disappearances, but also for being participants in the framework of state terrorism.”

According to the Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights (MEDH), this trial also has international relevance because it is the second in the world, after the Nuremberg trials, where former judges are tried for their responsibility in crimes against humanity.

“This is the largest trial in all of Mendoza’s history, because it has the most people charged and because it is the first trial against the judicial authorities of the dictatorship,” it said.

It is estimated that the trial could last at least two years, but Salinas emphasized that the first part of the judicial proceedings will be crucial.

Herald staff with DyN

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