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October 25, 2014

Military dictator

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Court increases penalties against Bignone, others

Former dictators Jorge Rafael Videla (since deceased), right, and Reynaldo Bignone attend their trial on February 28, 2011.

The Criminal Cassation Court yesterday increased the penalties given to the last Argentine dictator Reynaldo Benito Bignone for systematic planning of the appropriation of children during the dictatorship that ruled the country between 1976 and 1983.

The country’s top criminal court also revoked the acquittal of two repressors in a decision that was celebrated by the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo.

In 2012, late dictator Jorge Rafael Videla and eight other dictatorship perpetrators were convicted for their roles in the plan to snatch babies from their mothers while they were in captivity. Following a request filed by plaintiffs, defendants and prosecutors, the third court of the Criminal Cassation Court yesterday confirmed the ruling but also decided to go further, lifting Bignone’s penalty from 15 to 25 years prison, and sentencing Rubén Oscar Franco to 25 years behind bars and Eduardo Ruffo to 14 years.

Ruffo was a member of a death squad that operated the clandestine detention centre known as “Automotores Orletti,” which was used as base for the infamous Plan Cóndor, a coordination of repression between dictatorships across the Southern Cone region in the 1970s, which was orchestrated by the United States. He was sentenced for his role in the appropriation of Simón Riquelo, Uruguayan activist Sara Méndez’s baby. In a previous proceeding, Ruffo — who was also a spy in the 90s in the government’s Intelligence Secretariat (SIDE) — was sentenced for snatching Carla Rutila Artés.

Franco and Bignone were members of the last junta that ruled the country after the defeat in the Malvinas war. The Cassation Court, made up of president Mariano Borinski, Euardo Riggi and Liliana Catucci, considered that both men could have contributed to restoring the real identities of the snatched children but preferred to destroy the archives that may have helped to identify the hundreds of missing children.

“We praise the ruling,” lawyer Alan Iud, who heads the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo legal team, told the Herald yesterday. “The country’s top criminal court ratified what the Federal Oral Court Number 6 (TOF6) said two years ago but also found them responsible for the appropriation of children and for destroying evidence.”

Others convicted

In 2012, the TOF6 also sentenced late former dictator Jorge Videla to 50 years behind bars, the maximum penalty ever given in a proceeding; Antonio Vañek — one of the heads of the Navy — to 40 years in prison; and Jorge “El Tigre” Acosta to 30 years.

Acosta headed the Navy Mechanics School (ESMA) death squad during the first few years of the dictatorship.

Head of Military Academies Santiago Omar Riveros was sentenced to 20 years, medical doctor Jorge Luis Magnacco to 10 and former Border Guard Juan Antonio Azic to 14 years.

The tribunal also sentenced Víctor Gallo to 15 years in jail and his wife Susana Colombo, who appropriated Francisco Madariaga Quintela, whose father is the Grandmothers’ secretary.

Colombo was sentenced to five years in prison and is the only defendant who is not serving her sentence in jail.

The lawyers representing the repressors will now probably file appeal requests before the Cassation Court. If the criminal court agrees, the appeal will have to be examined by the Supreme Court.

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