By Robin Yapp
The Telegraph, February 28, 2011
"Jorge Videla, who ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1981, and Reynaldo Bignone, the last leader of the military regime from 1982 to 1983, are accused along with six other former military figures. Federico Delgado, federal prosecutor, called the theft of children 'one of the darkest episodes in Argentina's history' as the case began in Buenos Aires. About 500 babies were stolen from their mothers during the dictatorship, according to the campaign group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Pregnant female political dissidents were interned at secret maternity wards in centres used to torture opponents of the dictatorship. The babies were handed to military officers or their relatives after birth while the mothers were simply killed, many of them dropped alive from military planes into the sea. Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo has managed to identify 102 of the stolen babies so far, some of whom had become politicians or human rights activists. 'We were the regime's war spoils,' said 33-year-old Leonardo Fossati, who was adopted after his parents were abducted while his mother was pregnant, as he gathered with other demonstrators on the steps of the court. The eight on trial, who arrived at court in handcuffs, are accused of being responsible for 34 cases of kidnapping and falsifying children's identities.
Videla, 85, was considered the architect of Argentina's 'dirty war' to eliminate left-wing guerrillas and supporters and has faced a series of trials since the country returned to democracy. In December last year he was sentenced to life in jail for the torture and murder of 31 dissidents. Bignone, 83, was sentenced to 25 years in jail last April for kidnappings and torture carried out at an army base before he became de facto president. The dictatorship made some 30,000 people 'disappear' altogether, according to human rights groups."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]