Milani: ‘I have no impunity as head of Army’
Army Chief counters judicial irregularities claims made by human rights organization
Army Chief César Milani wasted no time in denying yesterday that there were irregularities in the case investigating him for crimes against humanity as claimed by the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) human rights organization on Saturday.
Milani countered accusations of judicial irregularities committed by La Rioja prosecutor Michel Horacio Salman — who requested the dismissal of the case— in a Defence Ministry press release stating that the accusations against him “are unfounded.”
Turning the tables around, he claimed that those responsible for committing serious irregularities were “the protagonists Ramón Alfredo Olivera (the victim of the alleged crimes), and prosecutors Marta Elena Kunath and Darío Edgar Illanes.” He also claimed that he wasn’t “given the real and effective right to defence,” lambasting prosecutor Illanes for having “created false death threats against himself,” and for having improper communication with opposition politicians (this led him to file two suits against the prosecutor for these irregularities).
Coming to the defence of Salman, he highlighted that the prosecutor had filed the acquittal request after reviewing over 1,600 pages of the legal investigation leading him to conclude they were unfounded.
There are two key crimes against humanity cases against Milani.
The first one is of having detained and transferred political prisoner Olivera knowingly to a clandestine concentration camp on March 12, 1977 and the second is of having signed paperwork that stated conscript Alberto Agapito Ledo had “deserted” (desertion was an excuse used for victims who were executed by the military).
Milani quoted his defence attorney Eduardo Narbona’s arguments and how Salman accepted its claims. “It was proved that I wasn’t in charge or participated in the arrest of Olivera,” and “how accompanying provincial police forces transferring political prisoners, from a La Rioja jail to a federal court, was not a crime.” This he said was supported by the fact that “there doesn’t exist any other charges for transferring prisoners between the federal court and La Rioja court,” claiming that a double standard had been applied to him.
The Milani’s Defence Ministry press release ended stating how surprised he was that CELS had kept quiet and omitted revealing the “irregularities in relation to prosecutor Illanes and Mr. Ramón Alfredo Olivera.”
When the Herald yesterday asked CELS their reaction to Milani’s statement, CELS Executive Director Gastón Chillier responded: “There is nothing new in this document”, deconstructing the points that Milani brought up.
“He claims that this is part of a media operation, but these accusations come from 30 years ago... there isn’t any political motive behind this,” Chillier added.
With regard to Milani’s claims that there didn’t exist other charges for people who had transferred political prisoners from prisons to courts, he said “this just isn’t true.”
There are many officers who have charges for this type of accusations; participating in just a part of arrest and transfer of political prisoners were sufficient grounds for them to be investigated, said Chillier.
The CELS representative highlighted that if Milani already knew what type of prison transfer he was participating in is more than enough to continue the investigation against him. Furthermore, Chillier explained that Milani had taken the political prisoner to then Judge Roberto Catalán who is also accused for crimes against humanity.
“The irregularities that Milani highlights do not justify the closure of the case, this investigation must continue,” Chillier concluded.
Llanas rejects Milani’s letter
Álvaro Llanes, who was Ledo’s friend and knew that he was then second lieutenant Milani’s assistant, rejected the general’s claims.
“Although this character (Milani) is trying to remove himself from the accusations, the soldiers are beginning to talk,” said the former political prisoner.
“There isn’t fear and many facts are being uncovered... Like Milani’s relations with (former governor and repressor) Antonio Bussi and his participation in other kidnappings, tortures and murders in Tucumán,” claimed Llanas.