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Former dictator, general handed fresh life imprisonment sentences

San Martín’s Federal Oral Court sentenced former general and de-facto president of the last military dictatorship, Reynaldo Benito Bignone, and former general Santiago Omar Riveros to life in prison on Wednesday, as a trial against them related to the disappearance of six conscripts ended.

Although the former military repressors are already serving life terms in prison for crimes against humanity convictions handed down to them in previous trials, the duo were found guilty for their role in the kidnapping of six conscripts from a military prep school — three of which were forced-disappearances — that was carried out under Bignone’s leadership. The events occurred in August, 1976, and February, 1977. The case drew interest after the judges accepted requests  from the prosecutors’ and plaintiffs asking for murder convictions, despite the fact that the victims’ bodies are still missing.

Judges Marta Milloc, Diego Barroetaveña and Silvia Cassain sentenced Bignone to life in prison for illegal raids, robbery, kidnapping, torture and the murders of Luis Steimberg, Luis “El Huevo” García — who were both part of the Communist youth party — and Mario Vicente Molfino. The judges also sentenced Riveros, who was the former general commander of the Military Institute of Campo de Mayo, to life in prison.  The hearing lasted 25 minutes.

In addition to the sentences against the two high-ranking former military officers, there were also other sentences handed down. The former chiefs of the military prep school, Alberto Federico Torres and Jorge Alvarado were sentenced to five and three years in prison.  Two officers from the Armed Forces that worked in the Clandestine Concentration Camp Campito, former Civil Intelligence agent Carlos Eduardo José Somoza, and officer Miguel Castagno Monge were given 15 and 11-year prison sentences. 

The trial also reviewed crimes against humanity against lawmaker Diego Muñiz Barreto. Another military officer who formed a part of the “death squads” at the Campito clandestine detention centre, Mario Rubén Dominguez, was convicted of the torture and murder of Barreto and ruled to be the “direct author” of the murder. He was also sentenced to life in prison. Omar Riveros and Domínguez were also convicted of sexual abuse committed against their victims. Family members of the victims and survivors were in attendance at the final hearing. 

The family members had begun the investigation during the last military dictatorship (1976-1983), by filing habeas corpuses, prompting then-judge Carlos Oliveri to subpoena all the conscripts who were in the same draft year as the victims.  In January 1984, only 30 days after former president Raúl Alfonsín was sworn-in as president, Oliveri ordered the arrest of Bignone, leading to one of the first arrests against high-ranking military repressors from the last military dictatorship.
         
—Herald staff
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