UENOS AIRES, (Reuters) – Former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, who defends the campaign of state violence that killed thousands of people from 1976 to 1983, was jailed for life yesterday for murder, torture and kidnapping.
Videla, 85, who has spent years in a military jail and under house arrest, repeatedly justified the brutality of the military junta in the so-called Dirty War crackdown on leftist opponents during his trial.
“I don’t talk about a dirty war. I prefer to talk about a fair war,” he was quoted as telling the court in the central city of Cordoba, where he stood trial alongside 29 other military figures.
Human rights activists in the courtroom applauded when his sentence to a civilian prison was announced.
Rights groups say up to 30,000 people were kidnapped and murdered during the 1976-1983 dictatorship, which began when Videla and two other military leaders staged a coup on March 24, 1976.
Videla also criticized government efforts to bring military leaders to trial for rights crimes before the sentence was read out on Wednesday.
“Yesterday’s enemies achieved their aims and now they govern the country and try to be seen as the champions of human rights,” Videla was quoted as saying by daily La Nacion in a veiled reference to President Cristina Fernandez’s center-left administration.
During the 2003-2007 presidency of Fernandez’s late husband, Nestor Kirchner, more Dirty War investigations were opened.