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Thursday, 2 December, 1999, 13:02 GMT
Argentinian ex-general barred from congress
military Thousands disappeared under the 1976-83 military regime

A former Argentinian general accused of human rights abuses during the period of military rule has been barred from congress.

After heated debate, the Argentinian Congress decided to prevent the deputy, Antonio Bussi, from taking up his seat while a special panel looks into the accusations against him.

Mr Bussi is accused of involvement of the theft of babies from political dissidents during the military regime in Argentina from 1976 to 1983.

Bussi Bussi: military governor in 1976-77
"We cannot accept a person responsible for genocide and torture in our midst. We cannot accept his lies.

"We cannot allow someone like this to occupy a seat in this chamber," centre-left Alliance Deputy Alfredo Bravo, himself detained and tortured during the 1976-83 military dictatorship, told Congress.

Opposition politicians say that if he is sworn in, Mr Bussi, who won a seat in October's election, will use his parliamentary immunity to block an investigation into his alleged involvement in the theft of babies.

He is also accused of not declaring a Swiss bank account, which human rights groups say contained money stolen from victims of the military repression.

Torture allegations

Mr Bussi was previously charged with kidnapping, torture and other violations during his time as military ruler of Tucuman province, but he was pardoned of those crimes under an amnesty law in 1990.

Congress barred Mr Bussi on constitutional grounds. Argentina's constitution prevents an elected official from taking office in cases of "moral inability."

"There is no way I'm going to swear in this perpetrator of genocide, this liar with a heart of stone who never declared his (Swiss) bank accounts," said deputy Amado Juri, Tucuman's elected governor at the time of the coup in 1976.

President Menem President Menem pardoned leaders of the military regime
While the former general was absent from the swearing-in ceremony, his son, Ricardo, a deputy since 1997, defended his father.

"He was elected in clean, transparent elections under the rules set out under our constitution," Ricardo Bussi shouted amongst heckles and cries of "assassin".

"You must respect the people's choice," he demanded.

Outside the Congress, about 100 protesters carrying "Jail Bussi" and "Spurn Bussi" signs were gathered,

"We must ensure Bussi is rejected, he's one of the worse murderers in our country," said one protestor.

Thousands disappeared

According to a government commission appointed in 1984, about 9,800 people were listed as "disappeared" after being arrested during the military regime's "dirty war" against political opponents.

Many of those abducted were accused of being leftist sympathisers - they were sent to torture centres and then murdered.

Human rights organisations have said the actual number of victims is higher than 30,000.

Many of the regime's top leaders were tried and sent to prison, but were pardoned by President Carlos Menem after he came to power in 1989.

Investigations are continuing into charges that officials stole babies born in detention camps, a crime not covered by the pardon.

They are on a list of 98 Argentinian citizens charged with human rights abuses by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, who is also pursuing the extradition of the former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet.

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See also:
04 Nov 99 |  World
Spanish prosecutors appeal 'dirty war' warrants
19 Aug 98 |  Top features
The Living Disappeared
24 Apr 99 |  Americas
Army chief probed over babies scandal
03 Nov 99 |  Americas
Argentina spurns 'dirty war' warrants
25 Nov 99 |  Americas
Argentina identifies 124 'disappeared'
12 Feb 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Argentina's missing babies

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