Buenos Aires: Argentina’s last dictator and 14 other former military officials were sentenced to prison for human rights crimes, marking the first time a court has ruled that Operation Condor was a criminal conspiracy to kidnap and forcibly disappear people across international borders.
The covert operation was launched in the 1970s by six South American dictatorships that used their secret police networks in a coordinated effort to track down their opponents abroad and eliminate them. Many leftist dissidents had sought refuge in neighboring countries and elsewhere.
An Argentine federal court yesterday sentenced former junta leader Reynaldo Bignone, 88, to 20 years in prison for being part of an illicit association, kidnapping and abusing his powers in the forced disappearance of more than 100 people.
The ex-general who ruled Argentina in 1982-1983 is already serving life sentences for multiple human rights violations during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.
In the landmark trial, 14 other former military officials received prison sentences of eight to 25 years for criminal association, kidnapping and torture.
They include Uruguayan army colonel, Manuel Cordero Piacentini, who allegedly tortured prisoners inside Automotores Orletti, the Buenos Aires repair shop where many captured leftists were interrogated under orders from their home countries.
Two of the accused were absolved. The sentences are seen as a milestone because they mark the first time a court has proved that Operation Condor was an international criminal conspiracy carried out by the US-backed regimes in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
“Operation Condor affected my life, my family,” Chilean Laura Elgueta told The Associated Press outside the court room. Her brother, Luis Elgueta, had taken refuge in Buenos Aires from Gen Augusto Pinochet’s forces, only to be forcibly disappeared in Buenos Aires in 1976 as part of Operation Condor.
“This trial is very meaningful because it’s the first time that a court is ruling against this sinister Condor plan,” she said. (AP)