Military Conviction of Galtieri Junta Upheld in Civil Court
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ Former President and army chief Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri lost his appeal of a 12-year sentence and conviction of negligence in losing the 1982 Falklands War with Britain.
A civilian court on Monday upheld a military court’s decision against Galtieri and the two other members of his former junta, Adm. Jorge Isaac Anaya and Brig. Gen. Basilio Lami Dozo and stripped them of their ranks.
The four-judge federal appeals panel upheld the May 1986 convictions by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
It also adjusted the sentences for Anaya and Lami Dozo to 12 years, reducing Anaya’s by two years and increasing Lami Dozo’s by four.
The retired commanders-in-chief of Argentina’s army, navy and air force have been in jail since 1984; their sentences run through February 1996. Their pensions, while technically denied to them, will be paid to their wives.
The three, all in uniform, sat impassively, arms crossed, through the 90- minute hearing, and returned to military prison afterward.
Defense attorneys said final appeals may be lodged with the Supreme Court.
The court also upheld the acquittals of three other retired officers who were instrumental in carrying out the 74-day South Atlantic war - Gens. Mario Benjamin Menendez and Omar Parada, and Vice Adm. Juan Jose Lombardo.
On April 2, 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, off its south coast, which have been ruled by Britain since 1833. Argentina claims it inherited the archipelago, which it calls the Malvinas, upon asserting independence from Spain in 1810.
″There was no planning ... (other than) the occupation of the islands,″ panel president Horacio Cattani said in reading the sentence. ″The British reaction was a possible alternative that was not taken into consideration.″
The defendants pleaded innocent.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sent a task force to the South Atlantic and, after fighting in which 255 Britons and about 700 Argentines lost their lives, won back the islands. On June 14, Gen. Menendez surrendered his troops at Port Stanley.
Galtieri was forced to step down in disgrace in June 1982 after the Falklands defeat. The government, controlled by the military since a March 1976 coup, returned to civilian rule the next year.
Galtieri, 62, said Argentina almost won the war, so charges of incompetence were baseless.
Summing up his own defense on Oct. 17, Galtieri said: ″Would I do it again? Given the same circumstances and conditions, would I proceed in the same manner? The answer is, yes.″
Under Argentine law, federal appeals courts may increase or reduce sentences as well as uphold, overturn or impose convictions. They may even, despite their name, act as courts of first resort.
Argentina has never formally declared a cessation of hostilities and diplomatic relations between the once-warm friends have never been resumed. Britain has substantially increased its military presence on the archipelago.