Argentina's last dictator was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison Tuesday for torture and illegal detentions committed during the nation's 1976-1983 military regime.
Reynaldo Bignone, 82, shared responsibility in 56 cases involving break-ins, robbery, illegal detentions and torture in one of Argentina's largest torture centers, the Campo de Mayo military base, the tribunal ruled.
"Today is a good day for Argentines," said Estela de Carlotto, president of the Grandmothers of the Plaza Mayo human rights group. "We are in agreement [with the ruling], but a lot remains to be done. There are hundreds more accused."
Bignone was de facto president from 1982 to 1983, but the crimes he was convicted of were committed between 1976 and 1978, when he was second-in-command of the Campo Mayo military base.
In the same ruling Tuesday, five other retired military officers received sentences ranging from 17 to 25 years, while a former police official was absolved.
The verdict was read by Judge Marta Milloc in a small indoor stadium to hold all those in attendance, mainly family members of the victims and representatives from human rights groups.
Bignone, who is currently under house arrest, was not present.
He was appointed president by the military junta in the waning years of the dictatorship and it fell to him to protect the military as Argentina returned to democracy. He granted amnesty to human rights violators and ordered the destruction of documents related to torture and disappearances of political opponents before agreeing to transfer power to the democratically elected Raul Alfonsin.
Argentina's courts and congress eventually overturned the amnesty, and President Cristina Fernandez has made a priority of prosecuting leaders of the dictatorship.
Bignone has denied responsibility for the crimes in past court proceedings.
Before the sentence was read, Bignone said it has never been demonstrated that "more than 8,000" people disappeared during the dictatorship.
"In times of peace the disappearance of a single person mean one thing and in times of war it means something else," he said.
An official report listed 13,000 people killed during the 1976-83 dictatorship. Human rights groups say 30,000 died.
This is awesome! I'm even more excited that I am visiting you this summer Argentina, when you do awesome things like this.
And if anyone needs any reminding about the US's part in supporting these monstrous motherfuckers, here's a very classy video of Kissinger palling around with Jorge Videla