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Last Updated: Friday, 14 December 2007, 17:40 GMT
Argentine cyanide family arrested
By Daniel Schweimler
BBC News, Buenos Aires

Protesters demand the appearance of Julio Lopez, a key witness in trials against human rights abuses under military rule who was kidnapped one year ago - 18/09/2007
Argentina's period of military rule is still a contentious issue
The wife and two grown-up children of a convicted human rights abuser in Argentina have been arrested in connection with his death.

Hector Febres was found in his cell earlier this week having ingested cyanide, just days before he was to be sentenced for human rights abuses.

The crimes were committed under military rule in the 1970s and '80s.

An estimated 30,000 people were kidnapped, tortured and killed during Argentina's "dirty war" from 1976-1983.

Opportunity lost

Hector Febres worked at the Naval Mechanics School, or ESMA, the most notorious detention and torture centre used under Argentina's military rule.

Many died there, their bodies thrown into the nearby River Plate.

Argentine woman walks by pictures of people "disappeared" during military rule - file photo
Thousands of people "disappeared" under Argentina's military rule
Febres had stories to tell and many suspected he might talk before being sentenced.

Police are investigating whether he was murdered or he killed himself.

Prosecution lawyers are convinced he was silenced by those linked to the military who kidnapped, tortured and killed an estimated 30,000 people during military rule.

Two of those responsible for guarding Febres have been detained. So have his wife and two grown-up children, who ate with him the night before his body was found poisoned with cyanide.

Febres was to be the first person from the ESMA to be sentenced, but the legal process will end with his death.

The detention centre was earlier this year handed over to the civilian authorities and will become a memorial centre or museum.

But the families of the victims will feel that the death of Febres has robbed them of an opportunity to find out more and to see justice done in Argentina - a process which has so far moved very slowly.

SEE ALSO
'Dirty War' priest gets life term
10 Oct 07 |  Americas
Q&A: Argentina's grim past
14 Jun 05 |  Americas
Country profile: Argentina
12 Dec 07 |  Country profiles



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