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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 15:58 GMT
Argentina checks Ford's 'military ties'
Relatives of Argentina's
Thousands disappeared during military rule
The Argentine authorities have launched an investigation into allegations that executives of a subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company were involved in the illegal detention and disappearance of workers during the military regime.

Prosecutor Felix Crous said he had filed the case after a former Ford Argentina employee, Pedro Norberto Troiani, told a court that a secret military detention centre was set up inside one of the firm's factories on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

Mr Troiani told a court in the city of La Plata that he was one of 25 workers detained at the plant in the 1970s.

Ford Argentina was accused in 1998 of having collaborated with the military juntas which ran the country from 1976 to 1983, but this is the first time a legal process has been opened in connection with the allegations.

Held hostage

Mr Crous said that if the claims were true, the decision to collaborate with the military must have been made at the highest level of Ford Argentina.

General Jorge Videla
General Jorge Videla seized power in 1976

As a former union representative, Mr Troiani had been summoned to tell the court about the alleged disappearance of 14 Mercedes-Benz workers in the 1970s.

It was during that testimony that he gave details about the alleged detention centre established by the military at the Ford plant during the "Dirty War".

Mr Troiani said he was held hostage there for 50 days, before being sent to prison.

According to papers filed by the prosecutor, army personnel arrived at the plant on the day of the military coup, 24 March, 1976.

That same day, the prosecutor says, workers began to disappear.

External inquiry

Ford Argentina is not the first car-maker to be accused of ties with the military regime.

Last month, DaimlerChrysler - the parent company of Mercedes-Benz - announced an external investigation into the claims that 14 union activists were handed over to Argentina's military in the 1970s.

It says the investigation is designed to dispel the allegations made by the human rights group, Amnesty International, about the disappearance of the Mercedes-Benz workers.

An official investigation has concluded that 9,000 people were killed or disappeared during the period of military rule in Argentina, although human rights organisations say the figure could be as high as 30,000.

See also:

24 Mar 01 | Americas
09 Jul 02 | Americas
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