Businessman Marcos Levin was found guilty of torturing and kidnapping 17 of his employees in 1977 on Wednesday. This conviction makes Levin the first businessman convicted for crimes against humanity committed during Argentina’s last dictatorship.
This is the second time Levin has been tried for these crimes. In 2016, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but a Federal Appeals Court annulled the sentence the following year on the grounds that his actions were not crimes against humanity. Argentina’s Supreme Court ordered Levin be retried after reviewing the sentences, following a request from the prosecution.
Levin, the former owner of long-distance bus company La Veloz del Norte, was tried in Salta. The sentence will be revealed in the coming days, according to HIJOS, an organization that groups sons and daughters of victims of the last dictatorship.
HIJOS said that the prosecutor’s office is now asking for a 25-year prison sentence.
The kidnapped employees were union members who were protesting workplace mistreatment and calling for higher salaries. They were illegally detained for supposedly defrauding the company and taken to a police station, where they were tortured. Most of them were fired after being freed a few days later. However, some of them remained detained there or in a local prison, in some cases for even a few months.
The Federal Criminal Cassation Court confirmed that the crimes committed against former employee and union representative Víctor Cobos by Levin and two policemen who worked as security at his company were effectively crimes against humanity.
The two policemen are ex chief of police Víctor Hugo Almirón and former policeman Víctor Hugo Bocos, who were also sentenced in 2016 and later had their convictions annulled. They were both found guilty now also.
Cobos was a driver for La Veloz del Norte when he was kidnapped by Salta Police officers when he was getting ready to start his shift on January 22, 1977.
He was taken to the police station, where Almirón and Bocos worked aboard a light-blue Falcon car — a model typically used by the military during those years. Cobos was tortured and illegally detained there for around a week. He was later taken to a local prison and released on April 19, 1977.
The torture Cobos suffered during his illegal detention “is undescribable,” the court said. “[Cobos] explained that the tortures he received consisted in punches and the use of the electric picana” or electric prod, a torture device invented by Argentine police during the 1930s dictatorship.
In the first trial for these crimes in 2016, Almirón and Bocos were sentenced to 12 and 8 years, respectively. The Federal Appeals Court annulled the sentence in 2016, along with Levin.