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Argentina protests mark anniversary of disappearance of Dirty War trial witness

[JURIST] Protesters in Buenos Aires on Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of Jorge Julio Lopez [JURIST report], who is believed to have been kidnapped after testifying against Miguel Etchecolatz [Project Disappeared profile] in the latter's trial [JURIST report] for crimes committed during Argentina's Dirty War [Global Security backgrounder]. Lopez, 77, had testified that he was abducted in 1976 and held in a clandestine detention center. He disappeared one day before Etchecolatz, the former chief investigator of the Buenos Aires police, became the second official in Argentina to be sentenced [JURIST report] for crimes against humanity and genocide. Lopez was the first of two witnesses to disappear last year; however, Luis Gerez, who was kidnapped in December 2006, reappeared three days later.

The Argentinean police claim to have interviewed 549 people in their investigation of Lopez's disappearance and to have pursued leads that associates of Etchecolatz abducted and possibly murdered Lopez. According to Lopez's lawyer, the government is reluctant to probe too deeply into the case due to the involvement of state security forces. The situation has also prompted concern among human rights groups for the safety of witnesses who are set to testify in the numerous upcoming trials of alleged war criminals. The trial of former police chaplain and Catholic priest Christian Von Wernich is currently underway, and Hector Febres, a former naval officer, will face trial in October for crimes committed at the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA), one of the largest clandestine detention and torture centers of the Dirty War. IPS has more. Clarin has additional coverage, in Spanish.

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