Latin America & Caribbean

Verdict due in Argentina baby theft trial

Reynaldo Bignone and Jorge Rafael Videla
The prosecution has called for 50-year sentences for Reynaldo Bignone and Jorge Videla

An Argentine court is due to deliver its verdict in the trial of former military leaders accused of overseeing the systematic theft of babies from political prisoners in the 1970s.

Ex-leaders Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone face long terms if convicted.

They are on trial with six others for the kidnap of some 34 children.

At least 400 babies are thought to have been taken from their parents who were being held in detention centres during the 1976-83 military rule.

Thursday's verdict is the culmination of a trial that began in February 2011.

It is the first time that Argentina's military leaders have faced charges of operating a systematic plan to take babies from their parents who were then killed or "disappeared".

The defendants also include five other ex-officers and a doctor, who delivered many of the babies.

Prosecutors have called for 50-year sentences for Videla, 86, and Bignone, 84, who are already serving lengthy terms for human rights crimes.

More than 100 children given for adoption to military or police couples have been reunited with their biological families.

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, an association that works to uncover the real identities of the stolen children, believes several hundred babies were abducted.

However, some of the children have said they would rather not know their origins, especially if the information implicates their adoptive parents in illegal acts.

Human rights groups say that during military rule, known as the "Dirty War", some 30,000 people were killed or made to disappear by the armed forces in their campaign against opposition activists and left-wing guerrillas.

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