Italy hands life terms to ex-South American officials in ‘Operation Condor’ case

January 18, 2017 2:09 pm

The judges of the Third Court of Rome are seen in the trial of South American military officers and civilians, at the maximum-security room of the Rebibbia prison, Rome, , January 17, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

A court in Italy has sentenced eight former South American political and military leaders to life in prison in absentia for their involvement in the disappearance and deaths of 23 people of Italian origin during the 1970s and 1980s.
The court on Tuesday also acquitted another 19 people in the case over “Operation Condor,” the secret alliance of South American military dictatorships during which military leaders cooperated in persecuting and assassinating one another’s political opponents.
Chile’s Pinochet launched Operation Condor in November 1975, nearly two years after he came to power by a military coup against Marxist President Salvador Allende.
Former Bolivian president Luis García Meza Tejada, former Peruvian president Francisco Morales Bermudez, two retired Chilean army officials, and a Uruguayan politician were among those sentenced.
Prosecutor Giancarlo Capaldo said that once all appeals are exhausted and the verdict becomes definitive, Rome would seek to have any sentences served in the elderly defendants’ own countries. Some of the convicts are already in jail or under house arrest in their countries.

Relatives react to the sentence read by the judges of the Third Court of Rome during the trial of South American military officers and civilians, at the maximum-security room of the Rebibbia prison in Rome, Italy, January 17, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Under Italian law, courts in Italy can probe the murder of Italian citizens overseas.
Maria Elena Boschi, an Italian government adviser who attended the final hearing, said an official Uruguayan delegation was also present in the session.
“For the Italian government, it was fundamental to have justice,” Boschi said before the ruling was announced. “This (trial) has a historic importance: for the first time we have connected tragic events that happened in different parts of the world.”
Amnesty International’s Patrizia Sacco, who followed the trial, refused to comment pending the magistrates’ written verdict but underlined, “It is very difficult to bring to trial people accused of crimes committed a long time ago.”
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