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Argentina president fires coast guard chief following death of 'Dirty War' suspect

[JURIST] Incoming Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez [personal website, in Spanish] Monday dismissed Argentinian coast guard head Carlos Fernandez, one week after former Argentinian coast guard officer and torture suspect Hector Febres was found dead [AP report] in his military jail cell with high levels of cyanide in his blood. Febres went to trial in October [JURIST report] on charges of kidnapping and torturing four people at the Navy Mechanics School [BBC backgrounder] during Argentina's Dirty War [Global Security backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. He was the first person to face trial for human rights violations at the school, the largest secret prison run by the Argentinian military during the 1976-83 Dirty War campaign. The trial's verdict had been expected this past Friday and if convicted, Febres would have faced life in prison. His wife and two grown children were detained for questioning [AP report] following his death.

Last month, outgoing Argentinian President Nestor Kirchner dedicated a new monument [JURIST report] to victims of the Dirty War, on which the names of thousands of victims are engraved. The monument sits beside the Rio de la Plata, where drugged prisoners who were suspected of "subversion" were thrown to their deaths. Kirchner used the occasion to urge Argentinian courts to move along trials against former members of the military regime more quickly. The former president also promised that Cristina Fernandez, his wife and successor to the presidency, would continue his policy of pushing for accountability. Fernandez, elected in October, was sworn into office [AP report] last Monday, the same day Febres was found dead. AP has more. La Nacion has local coverage.

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