Page last updated at 22:51 GMT, Thursday, 28 August 2008 23:51 UK

Argentine chiefs jailed for life

By Daniel Schweimler
BBC News, Argentina

Luciano Benjamin Menendez (left) and Antonio Bussi
It has taken 32 years to bring Menendez (left) and Bussi to trial

Two of the worst oppressors during Argentina's military rule - known as the Dirty War - have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Antonio Bussi, 82, and Luciano Benjamin Menendez, 81, were sent to prison for the kidnapping and disappearance of a former senator in April 1976.

The two generals were senior members of the military government that ruled the country during the 1970s and 1980s.

During that time tens of thousands of people were tortured and killed.

A court in the northern Argentine province of Tucuman sentenced the two men on Thursday.

The former provincial governor, Antonio Bussi, and military chief, Luciano Benjamin Menendez, looked on passively as the sentences were read out.

Menendez was sentenced to prison earlier this month on another human rights case and there are more charges outstanding against the two men - both now in their eighties.

They were found guilty of responsibility for the disappearance in April 1976 of the former senator, Guillermo Vargas Aignasse.

Long wait

Family and friends of other victims were inside and outside the court, holding photographs of their loved ones. Some cheered, while others cried.

A short distance away, separated by lines of riot police, were supporters of the two men who earlier had told the court they knew nothing about the disappeared man and defended the military government which they said was fighting to protect Argentina against communism.

It took 32 years to bring Bussi and Menendez to trial - the cases against the perpetrators of the darkest period in Argentine history only resumed a couple of years ago.

Tens of thousands of people were kidnapped by the authorities and disappeared. It has taken a long time but justice in Argentina is now being seen to be done.

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