Dozen alleged dictatorship repressors stand trial for first time

28 former police officers will face the court in Mendoza, while a former military officer is being tried for murder in Santa Fe

A Mendoza court has started to try 28 former members of the provincial police’s Information Department for crimes including kidnapping, torture, rape and homicide, committed against more than 300 people between 1974 and 1981. 

More than half the defendants have never been tried for crimes against humanity before. 

A former military officer, who likewise has not stood trial before, is also in the dock for murder in a separate case in Santa Fe province.

The case focuses on the role of the Information Department (known as “D2”) in the repression plan deployed in the province during the civic-military dictatorship. It began at 9 a.m. on Friday in the Mendoza City federal courthouse.

The D2 “focused on intelligence efforts against political activists and organizations from before the civic-military dictatorship” and “was one of the main executors of state terrorism” in Mendoza, according to the Human Rights Secretariat, which is also a plaintiff in the case.

The case will prosecute the 28 defendants — out of which 13 have already been convicted in some of the 12 trials conducted in the province since 2010 — for charges that include kidnapping, torture, homicide, theft and rape against more than 300 people, including 71 victims who have been murdered or disappeared. More than a dozen victims were underage at the time.

On the run

In Santa Fe province, the state’s Federal Court #1 began trying former military officer Alberto José Jaime for the murder of Peronist Youth activist Yolanda Ponti, 18, on December 1, 1976.

Jaime, who had been on the run since 2013 and was arrested in 2019, is now facing crimes against humanity charges for the first time. Going by the alias “Mono”, Jaime was a member of the Military Intelligence Base 122 patota (gang), the groups of officers who carried out kidnapping and murder operations.

The key evidence in the murder of Ponti is an inquiry the Army conducted in 1976 after former sergeant Oscar Alberto Cabezas was killed during the operation. During that inquiry, Jaime stated that they spotted Ponti getting into a bus in the Barranquitas neighborhood of Santa Fe, after which they followed it in two cars, and he gave the order to intercept the vehicle.  

According to Lucia Tejera, an attorney for the Santa Fe branch of human rights organization HIJOS, which is a plaintiff in the case, Yolanda’s murder was part of “the constant spying and persecution political activists in Santa Fe were subjected to” both before and during the dictatorship.

With information by Télam


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