leaders tried over baby thefts
trial is expected to last several months
BBC News 28th February
Two former military
leaders have gone on trial in Argentina, accused of overseeing the
systematic theft of babies from political prisoners.
Jorge Videla and
Reynaldo Bignone are accused of kidnapping some 30 children whose
parents died or disappeared during the 1976-83 military rule.
Six others, including
ex-officers and a doctor, are also on trial.
More than 100 children
are known to have been given for adoption to military or police couples.
The long-awaited trial,
which is being televised, is the first time Argentina's military leaders
have faced charges of operating a systematic plan to steal babies from
The parents were then
killed or "disappeared".
The defendants are
charged with "taking, retaining and hiding minors and changing
The trial is focusing
on the fate of at least 34 children who were born to mothers being held
in the two main prisons used during military rule, the Naval Mechanics
School, or Esma, and the Campo de Mayo military base.
The case came to trial
mainly because of the efforts of the human rights group, the
Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who have campaigned to find out what
happened not only to their children but also their grandchildren.
It is expected the
trial, being held in a Buenos Aires court, will take several months at
least, with about 370 witnesses expected to testify.
Videla, 85, has already
been sentenced to life after being found guilty of crimes against
humanity, while Bignone, 83, was given 25 years in jail last April after
being convinced of human rights abuses.
The others accused of
involvement in the systematic theft of babies are: Santiago Omar
Riveros, Ruben Oscar Franco, Antonio Vanek, Jorge Luis Magnacco, Juan
Antonio Azic and Jorge Acosta.
Human rights groups say
30,000 people died or disappeared during what became known as the Dirty
They say at least 400
children were "stolen".
The Grandmothers have
identified dozens of children of people who disappeared during this
But some adopted
children have said they would rather not know their origins, especially
if the information implicates their adoptive parents in illegal acts.
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