A court in Buenos Aires has sentenced last Argentine dictator Reynaldo Bignone and several others over crimes committed under Operation Condor, which was launched in the 1970s. Following a trial that lasted three years, Bignone and 14 other military officers were found guilty of conspiring with other South America's dictators, which led to the kidnapping and killing of several left-wing activists in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Bolivia.
During an hour-long verdict hearing on Friday (27 May) in the largest courtroom in the Argentine capital, judges sentenced Bignone to 20 years in prison. Former Uruguayan Col Manuel Cordero, who was the only non-Argentine defendant in the case, was sentenced to 25 years in prison, BBC reported, adding five of the defendants, including former junta leader Jorge Rafael Videla — the head of Argentina's junta during its first three years, have died since the trial started in 2013.
Bignone and Videla were among several other former junta leaders of the country who were sentenced in 2012 over theft of babies from female political prisoners during the country's dictatorship years between 1976 and 1983. Former navy officer Jorge Acosta was also sentenced in the baby theft case.
During the Friday hearing, the only defendant in the Operation Condor case present in the courtroom was Angel Furci, who was found guilty of illegal kidnapping in 67 cases and of torture in 62 cases for his actions at the Automotores Orletti illegal detention centre during the Dirty War.
The courtroom was completely packed with survivors and relatives of victims who cheered when the sentences were being announced. A Uruguayan flag was reportedly seen hanging in the courtroom, apparently to mark the first occasion when a former Uruguayan officer was on trial for torture in Argentina.
Operation Condor began in 1975 at a meeting of intelligence chiefs from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, and continued through the 1980s. The operation named after the largest vulture in South America saw the confluence of military leaders of all these neighbouring countries, who were previously warring against each other. The group was later joined by Brazil, Ecuador and Peru. They came together to fight a new common enemy — the Marxist ideology.