Argentina jails 'Dirty War' criminals

An Argentine court has sentenced 48 former military personnel to prison for involvement in so-called "death flights" and other crimes committed at a notorious torture center.

Former Argentine navy officers Jorge Acosta (L) and Alfredo Astiz (2nd L) and other members of Argentina's Naval Mechanics School, known as the ESMA, where the military regime held and tortured thousands of leftists from 1976 to 1983, attend the sentence hearing of the five-year trial for their role during the 1976-1983 dictatorship in Buenos Aires, November 29, 2017.

An Argentine court has sentenced 48 former military personnel to prison for involvement in so-called “death flights” and other crimes committed at a notorious torture center when a junta ruled the country.

The trial is part of an effort to investigate torture and crimes committed at the ESMA Naval Mechanics School. Only a fraction of an estimated 5,000 opponents of the regime, which ruled from 1976-1983, survived being sent there.

Twenty-nine people were handed life sentences on Wednesday, 19 received sentences of between eight and 25 years, and six were acquitted.

Among those who received life were Mario Daniel Arru and Alejandro Domingo D’Agostino, two former pilots convicted of involvement in “death flights” in which people were killed by being thrown out of planes into the Rio de la Plata or the sea.

Victims of the flights include French nuns Alice Domon and Leonie Duquet, who were abducted and killed along with founders of the humanitarian organization Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in December 1977.

The remains of Duquet and three of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo were found on Argentina’s Atlantic coast and buried in a nearby cemetery. Domon’s remains were never recovered.

Alfredo Astiz, known as the “Blond Angel of Death,” and Jorge Acosta, nicknamed “The Tiger,” also received life.

Among other crimes, Astiz and Acosta were accused of the 1977 disappearance of Swedish citizen Dagmar Hagelin, who was 17 years old.

Both men had already been sentenced to life imprisonment in prior trials.

Some 30,000 people were kidnapped, tortured and killed in what became known as Argentina’s “Dirty War,” according to rights groups.

Victims included Montonero guerrillas, labor union leaders, students, leftist sympathizers and in some instance, their relatives and friends.

This is the third trial for human rights violations committed at ESMA, and some 800 witnesses have given court testimony.

Since the process began in November 2012, 11 of the accused have died, and three were deemed too ill to face trial. 

Outside the court, people including dozens of human rights activists followed the proceedings on a giant screen.

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