Two of Argentina’s former dictators have appeared in court in Buenos Aires to face charges in connection with the kidnapping of hundreds of babies, seized from their mothers during military rule in the 1970s and 80s.

In the dock are former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, 85 (photo center); the last head of the military junta, Reynaldo Bignone, 83 (photo left); five prominent army, navy and coast guard officers; and one civilian doctor.

Videla headed Argentina’s military leadership from 1976 to 1981, while Bignone ruled from 1982-1983. They are on trial with six other defendants.

The eight defendants face charges of "taking, retaining, hiding and changing the identities of" 34 children born to political prisoners held in clandestine prisons during the dictatorship.

Four others accused in the case have died since the charges were brought: former admiral Emilio Massera, former police chief Juan Sasiain, former coast guard officer Héctor Febres and former army chief Cristino Nicolaides.


Female political prisoners were kept alive during their pregnancies, only to be summarily killed after giving birth, often dropped alive into the sea from military aircraft.

Some 30,000 people were forcibly disappeared during the seven-year dictatorship, according to human rights organisations.

It may take up to a year to hear testimony from about 370 witnesses.


Outside the court steps, protesters from the rights group HIJOS, "children", waved flags and chanted for justice on behalf of the detained and disappeared.

"We were the regime’s war spoils," said 33-year-old Leonardo Fossati, who will be testifying at the trial.

Videla had been sentenced to prison for life during a 1985 trial against military leaders for crimes against humanity, but he received amnesty five years later from Carlos Menem, a former president.

The amnesties were annulled during the 2003-2007 presidency of Nestor Kirchner, the late former Argentinian leader, paving the way for these latest trials.

Source: Al Mahnar /