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Argentina court releases 'dirty war' suspects

[JURIST] An Argentine court Thursday released 14 suspects who are accused of committing human rights violations during the country's military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983. The court released the men pending bail [Reuters report], saying that the two-year legal deadline for holding them without a conviction had expired. The suspects are said to have committed human rights violations during Argentina's so-called "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Among those to be released on bail were Alfredo Astiz [Trial Watch profile] and Jorge Acosta, who worked at the Naval Mechanics School (ESMA) [BBC backgrounder] where thousands were tortured and killed. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner [official website, in Spanish] deplored the ruling, which the government has said it will appeal [press release, in Spanish].

It is estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 people were forcibly kidnapped or "disappeared" during the Argentine government's campaign against suspected dissidents during the country's "Dirty War." In 2005, Argentina's Supreme Court struck down amnesty laws [JURIST report] adopted in the 1980s to protect potential defendants, prompting the government to reopen hundreds of human rights cases. In March, Argentine politician and former police chief Luis Abelardo Patti was arrested for crimes allegedly committed during the period. In May, Juan Evaristo Puthod, a victim of the violent suppression, was kidnapped but later released [JURIST reports] before testifying in a third case. In July, an Argentine court sentenced former general Luciano Benjamin Menendez and four others to life in prison for the 1977 kidnapping, torture, and killing of four political dissidents during the "Dirty War," and in August, a court convicted Mendendez and another former general [JURIST reports] and sentenced them to life terms for kidnapping, torturing, and murdering Peronist politician Guillermo Vargas Aignasse in 1976 during the coup.

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