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Page last updated at 23:25 GMT, Friday, 4 April 2008 00:25 UK

Dirty War adoption couple jailed

Maria Eugenia Sampallo holds up photos of her parents in court (31 March 2008)
Maria Eugenia Sampallo discovered the identity of her true parents in 2001

An Argentine couple have been jailed for illegally adopting a baby girl born 30 years ago to parents who were kidnapped by the military government.

The case was brought by the adopted woman, Maria Eugenia Sampallo, whose real parents were among the 30,000 said to have been killed in the "Dirty War".

Osvaldo Rivas and Maria Cristina Gomez were convicted of falsifying documents and hiding their daughter's identity.

The pair were sentenced to eight and seven years in prison respectively.

A former army captain, Enrique Berthier, was found guilty of taking Ms Sampallo and giving her to the couple. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

'Not my parents'

The case at the federal criminal court in Buenos Aires represented the first time a child born of prisoners who disappeared during the Dirty War pressed charges against the adoptive parents.

Osvaldo Rivas (4 April 2008)
Rivas and his wife have not commented publicly on the case

After the judgement, human rights groups outside the court expressed mixed emotions, saying they were pleased the three had been found guilty but that they were disappointed by the reduced sentences.

Ms Sampallo had called for her adoptive parents to be sentenced to 25 years in prison - the maximum allowed under Argentine law.

"They are not my parents - they are my kidnappers," she said.

Ms Sampallo learned in 2001, as a result of DNA tests, that she was the daughter of missing political prisoners Mirta Mabel Barragan and Leonardo Ruben Sampallo.

The left-wing activists were kidnapped by the military authorities in December 1977, when Mrs Barragan was six-months pregnant.

Ms Sampallo was born in a clandestine detention centre in the capital and taken from her mother shortly afterwards. She probably never saw her father.

The BBC's Daniel Schweimler, who was at the court, says that nothing more has ever been heard about her parents - they "disappeared" along with an estimated 30,000 other victims of the military regime between 1976 and 1983.

After being taken by the authorities, Ms Sampallo lived with her adoptive parents, suspecting nothing, until 2001, when a group formed by grandmothers of the stolen babies, tracked her down and revealed her true identity.

It is believed some 500 children were given to families sympathetic to the military government. Eighty-eight have since been tracked down and those behind this case are hoping the publicity will provoke more questions, our correspondent says.

Rivas and Gomez have not commented publicly on the case.


video and audio news
Convicted 'father' speaks outside court



SEE ALSO
Argentine sues 'Dirty War' couple
12 Mar 08 |  Americas
Death jolts Argentine baby trial
26 Feb 08 |  Americas
Argentine group re-unites family
21 Oct 04 |  Americas
Q&A: Argentina's grim past
14 Jun 05 |  Americas
Timeline: Argentina
01 Apr 08 |  Country profiles



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