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Argentina ex-military leader facing additional murder charges

Former Argentine military junta leader Jorge Rafael Videla [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive] was charged Monday with an additional 49 counts of murder, kidnapping, and torture for crimes allegedly committed during Argentina's "Dirty War" [JURIST news archive]. The charges are the latest in the ongoing investigation against Videla, who led Argentina as de facto president from from 1976 to 1981. The additional charges stem from the identification of 40 bodies [AFP report] in Buenos Aires last year, including that of Argentina-born German citizen Rolf Stawowiok. In January, a German court issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for Videla in connection with Stawowiok's death, although German prosecutors believe it is unlikely he will be extradited. No trial date has been set for the new charges.

Videla has been in prison since 2008 while an investigation is underway for his role in the abduction of children born to political prisoners and forced disappearance victims during Argentina's Dirty War. A court revoked the house arrest conditions he had been granted in 1998 when the investigation began. Previously, he had served five years of a life sentence for human rights violations committed during his term in power, until in 1990 he was pardoned by then-president Carlos Menem. In 2006, a federal judge ruled that the presidential pardon was unconstitutional [JURIST report]. Italy has also requested [JURIST report] Videla's extradition to prosecute him for the deaths and forced disappearances of Italian citizens during the Dirty War. During the period Videla was head of the military junta, an estimated 90,000 civilians were killed or disappeared.

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