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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

7/6/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

'Baby stealing' seen as among the worst excesses of the former regimes'Baby stealing' seen as among the worst excesses of the former regimes

Under the dictatorships of former Argentinean leader Jorge Rafael Videla, who ruled the nation from 1976 to 1981, and General Reynaldo Benito Bignone who ruled briefly from June of 1982 until the country's return to democracy in December of 1983, babies of political prisoners were literally given away and given new identities. Both men will now bear the brunt of this practice as both were handed prison sentences this week.

Former dictator of Argentina Jorge Rafael Videla during the trial claimed that children may have been kidnapped, but he said that there was no order or systematic plan.

Former dictator of Argentina Jorge Rafael Videla during the trial claimed that children may have been kidnapped, but he said that there was no order or systematic plan.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/6/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Americas

Keywords: Jorge Rafael Videla, Argentina, baby stealing, life sentences


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - An Argentinean court handed down prison sentences for both men this week. Videla was sentenced to 50 years in prison and Bignone was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The crowd cheered when a judge read the verdict for Videla.

"It was the worst, the most perverse of the dictatorship, I think, what they did with us," Francisco Madariaga Quintela who was one of the stolen babies who was reunited with his father in 2010. "It was a torture prolonged through time, for the grandmothers searching, for family members, everyone."

Family members affected by the practice told CNN that they were satisfied with the verdict. "It was what we were asking for. We never asked for revenge. We never hated. We never asked for anything more than justice, and we have been fighting for 36 years," one father said.

Both men, along with their officers were described as the "presumed authors of the crimes of theft, retention and hiding of minors, as well as replacing their identities," according to a statement from the country's judiciary. Thirty-four babies were stolen from their parents, the court said.

Videla during the trial claimed that children may have been kidnapped, but he said that there was no order or systematic plan.

Videla defended his actions, saying in court that the children's mothers were "terrorists."

"All those who gave birth, who I respect as mothers, were active militants in the machinery of terrorism. They used their children as human shields," Videla said.

Videla was among the coup leaders who overthrew then-President Isabel Martinez de Peron in March 1976. He had been previously convicted in 2010 of human rights abuses during his rule and is already serving a life sentence.

Videla's lawyers requested that he be allowed to serve his sentence under house arrest, due to his advanced age. The request was denied.

Bignone was sentenced in 2009 to 25 years in prison for being directly responsible for the kidnapping and torture of 56 people.

The period when Argentina was ruled with an iron fist from 1976 to 1983 has been called the nation's "Dirty War." Under that military dictatorship, up to 30,000 students, labor leaders, intellectuals and leftists disappeared or were held in secret jails and torture centers.

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