Trial of former Argentine president Jorge Videla begins

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

File:Jorge Rafael Videla.jpg

Jorge Videla
Image: Presidency of the Nation of Argentina.
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

The trial of Argentina's ex-president Jorge Videla began Friday, in addition to more than twenty other former government officials charged with human rights violations.

Videla, aged 84, is on trial regarding the deaths of 31 prisoners who were killed soon after a 1976 coup, which saw Videla gain power and led to the so-called "Dirty War" soon after. Videla is considered to have been the main force behind the violence, which killed an estimated 30,000 people.

The prisoners in question had all been imprisoned before the coup, by the civilian government in power at the time, and died before standing trial. The government claimed that they were shot while trying to escape the prison in Cordoba; families of the victims say that they were murdered. Twenty-three people are on trial alongside Videla in Cordoba.

He was originally sentenced to life in prison in 1985 after another trial, which convicted him of crimes including murder and torture. He was pardoned several years into his sentence. The pardon was ruled unconstitutional in 2007, and Videla spent several years under house arrest, but is now imprisoned. If convicted he will not serve any additional jail time because he has already been given a life sentence; the trial is said to seek closure for the families.

The current trial is one of at least three planned to take place this year, and Videla also faces charges in several European countries, including Germany, Spain, Italy, and France, for killing citizens of those countries.

The prosecutor in the current case is Miguel Ceballos, son of one of the prisoners killed. He said that "[w]hen they came looking for my father at the prison, he knew he would be killed. He said goodbye to his friends and left a photo of his family so they could tell us what happened."