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Prosecutor Demands Stiff Sentences in Argentine Atrocities Trial

October 29, 1986

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ The prosecution called for life prison terms for a retired army general and a former police chief accused of overseeing a state terror campaign in which hundreds of people were kidnapped, tortured and summarily executed.

Chief Federal Prosecutor Julio Strassera also demanded long prison terms for five other defendants on trial for atrocities, including a physician who allegedly took part in torture sessions, advising torturers to desist when the victim was near death or administering drugs to revive a victim for further torment.

Strassera, who argued the murder, kidnapping and torture cases against former Argentine junta members convicted and sentenced last year, made his recommendations for punishment shortly before midnight Tuesday at the end of his summation before the Federal Criminal Court of Appeals in Buenos Aires.

He asked for life terms for retired army Gen. Ramon Camps, former commander of the Buenos Aires provincial police force, and for ex-police chief Miguel Etchecolatz.

Strassera called for prison terms of 25 years for army Gen. Pablo Ricchieri; 22 years for police Corp. Norberto Cozzani, 20 years for police physician Jorge Berges, and 18 years each for police commanders Hector Vides and Alberto Rousse.

All seven defendents served in the provincial police force during the late 1970s, when the country’s rightist military rulers waged a brutal campaign, called the ″dirty war,″ against leftists and other suspected opponents.

According to an investigative commission set up by the 3-year-old democratic government, security forces during the military regime abducted and tortured at least 9,000 people. They are called ″desaparecidos,″ or disappeared people, and are presumed to have been summarily executed and clandestinely buried, cremated or dumped into the ocean from military aircraft. Much of the repression took place in Buenos Aires province, the country’s most populous, where Camps was named overall commander of provincial police by the military leaders who had seized power in a 1976 coup.

The rights trial is the first proceeding of its kind since the appeals court convicted five former ruling junta members, including two ex-presidents, of atrocities last December and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 4 1/2 years to life.

Ricchieri was deputy police chief under Camps and succeeded him in December 1977.

Camps and Etchecolatz were the only two defendants accused of murder.

The prosecution’s recommended sentences were the maximum under Argentine law, which allows the death penalty only in special cases such as treason during wartime.

During more than three weeks of testimony ending in mid-October, prosecutors presented witnesses and other evidence in 280 specific cases. Many of those who testified were survivors of the repression or relatives of victims who described late-night abductions, torture in clandestine detention centers, looting of suspects’ homes and other crimes.

Under the trial rules, the criminal counts against the defendants were not specified until the end of the prosecution’s case.

Strassera formally charged Camps with one count of murder, 214 of kidnapping and 356 of torture, among other violations.

The counts against Etchecolatz were one of murder, 260 of kidnapping and 445 of torture, among other charges.

The other defendants were charged with numerous counts of kidnapping, torture, and armed robbery.

Camps, who is hospitalized with cancer, was the only defendant not present for Strassera’s summation.

The prosecution described Berges’ alleged crimes as ″particularly aberrant given his condition of physician, which obliged him to work against pain and death.″

Court-appointed defense attorneys will present their arguments next week, with verdicts not expected from the six-man court until December.

The defendants, who rejected the tribunal’s authority to judge them, refused to hire lawyers.

Many military and police officials involved in the repression believe their harsh tactics were necessary to wipe out leftist guerrillas and terrorists active in the country in the early and mid-1970s.

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