Bignone to spend 25 years in a common jail
[Translation of an article from Página/12 of Argentina for April 20.]
The First Federal Hearings Tribunal has pronounced sentence for crimes committed at the clandestine detention and torture center that once operated at the Campo de Mayo military garrison. The last de facto president of the dictatorship, Reinaldo Bignone, was sentenced to 25 years in prison, as were the former head of the Campo de Mayo intelligence department, Exequiel Verplaetsen, and the former chief of the Military Institutes Command of the base, Santiago Omar Riveros. “Nobody could question that it was a war,” Bignone said during his final argument in defense of his actions. The nation’s Human Rights Secretary, Eduardo Luis Duhalde, and Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo President Estela de Carlotto expressed satisfaction with the ruling and praised the work of the court.
Also sentenced were the former head of Intelligence Batallion 601 of the general staff of the army, Carlos Alberto Tepedino (20 years), the former director of the General Lemos Combat Support Services School, Eugenio Guañabens Perelló (17 years) and the former head of the Campo de Mayo infantry school, Jorge Osvaldo García (18 years). The former head of the Germán Montenegro Bella Vista commisary, meanwhile, was acquitted.
The accused were charged with illegal searches, deprivation of liberty and infliction of torture against 56 victims.
The Federal Hearings Tribunal in San Martín also ruled that the defendants, convicted of crimes perpetrated at Campo de Mayo between 1976 and 1978, will serve their sentences in ordinary Federal Penitientiary Services facilities. The court thereby revoked house arrest for Reynaldo Bignone, Carlos Tepedino and Eugenio Guañabens Perelló.
Before hearing his sentence, the last de facto president of the military dictatorship, Reynaldo Bignone, declared that during the ‘70s there was an “irregular war” in which the armed forces “had to intervene in order to defeat terrorism,” obeying “unquestionable orders” issued by a democratic government.
“Nobody can question that it was a war,” Bignone said as he sat facing the court for 40 minutes reading a written statement, for which he was hissed and which provoked ironic laughter when he questioned the figure of 30,000 disappeared and the cases of thefts of babies born to mothers held in secret detention centers.
Along the same lines, he stated that “they pester us with the figure of 30,000 disappeared and a judge of the court (Carmen Argibay) even appears on a list, and they left that figure as an incontestable fact and no more than 8,000 have been documented and they juggle the figure of 500 thefts of babies but there were no more than 30 and none of them committed by military personnel.”
Beside, “they call us repressive and genocidal, and to begin with the term ‘repression’ is not prejudicial, authorities have the obligation to repress all types of crimes, and ‘genocidal’ does not stand up to any analysis because what happened in our country does not fit in the least the international definition of the crime of genocide, only the spokesmen of hatred could make that claim.”
As the accused Santiago Omar Riveros had done before him, Bignone accepted responsibility for all orders given to his subordinates, claimed they were legitimate and recalled that under military justice disobedience is punishable by death.