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

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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.

Analysis

The stealing of babies from imprisoned left-wing activists during military rule left deep scars in Argentina.

And the shock became all the greater when personal stories behind the crime came to the fore.

Francisco lived 32 years of his life wondering why his father beat him so regularly.

Victoria found out that her adoptive father was involved in killing her biological father but she decided to stay with him.

Each person reacts differently to the truth, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo say.

"But the lie cannot last forever," says Rosa Rosinbit, one of the Grandmothers.

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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