Argentine doctors tried in 'dirty war' baby thefts

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Two Argentine doctors are being tried on suspicion of stealing babies from political prisoners during the country's 1976-1983 dictatorship.

Raul Eugenio Martin and Norberto Bianco are accused of taking nine babies from a clandestine maternity ward located inside military barracks. The trial, which began on Sept. 17, marks the first time that dictatorship-era physicians face a judge for this crime.

"They performed the C-section on our mothers and later, they would be (forcibly) disappeared," said Francisco Madariago Quintela, who as an adult learned that he was among the estimated 500 babies who were stolen. "We're hoping for a sentence because we're the proof of what is on trial."

Others named in the case include midwife Luisa Arroche, retired military officer Santiago Riveros and Reynaldo Bignone, who was the last military president of the dictatorship.

Bignone and Riveros are already serving life in prison for crimes against humanity. They and other military and police figures have been convicted with organizing the theft of babies from women who were detained and then executed in the junta's torture centers.

The children of the government's opponents were then taken away and given to families sympathetic to the regime. The activist group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a plaintiff in the case, has helped 115 of them learn their true identities.

During the "dirty war" to eliminate so-called "subversives," the junta officially denied any knowledge of systematic baby thefts, let alone responsibility for the disappearances of political prisoners.

Argentina's government estimates that at least 13,000 people were forcibly disappeared during the dictatorship.


AP writer Paul Byrne contributed to this report.

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