Accessibility links

Breaking News

Ex-Argentine Dictators on Trial For Baby Thefts

Former dictators Jorge Rafael Videla, right, and Reynaldo Bignone attend their trial in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb. 28, 2011

Two former Argentine dictators have gone on trial on charges they presided over a plot to steal babies from political prisoners decades ago.

Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone appeared in a Buenos Aires court Monday for the trial. Six other defendants, mostly military figures, also are facing charges.

Authorities say that at least 400 babies were stolen during the country's military dictatorship, which lasted from 1976 to 1983. Officials say the newborns were taken from jailed dissidents, who were never heard from again. The children were adopted by families friendly to the military government. To date, 102 people born to vanished dissidents have since recovered their true identities.

Videla led the first military government following the 1976 coup and held power until 1981. Last year, he went on trial to face charges stemming from the deaths of more than 30 political prisoners after the coup that unseated President Isabel Peron. Bignone held power from 1982 until 1983, when Argentina returned to democracy. Last year, he was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for torture and illegal detentions committed while the country was under military rule.

Their trial is expected to last about one year, with 370 witnesses to testify.

Argentine leftists were abducted, tortured and killed in a government crackdown on dissent during the seven-year dictatorship. Official records say at least 13,000 people disappeared or were killed during the crackdown known as the "Dirty War." Human rights groups put the toll at 30,000.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.