Video: Argentina’s ‘Blond Angel of Death’ convicted

msnbc.com news services
updated 10/26/2011 9:17:56 PM ET 2011-10-27T01:17:56

A court in Argentina has sentenced a former spy nicknamed "the Angel of Death" and 11 former military and police officials to life in prison for crimes against humanity committed during the country's 1976-1983 dictatorship.

The men were convicted of kidnapping, torturing and killing leftist dissidents at a torture center called the Navy Mechanics School.

Among those sentenced was Alfredo Astiz, a 59-year-old former navy spy nicknamed "the Angel of Death." Astiz is accused of participating in the disappearance, torture and murder of two French nuns, a journalist and three founders of a human rights group that he infiltrated while spying for the dictatorship.

The verdicts were applauded by human rights activists and families of the victims who watched the verdict on a big screen television.

"Ole, ole, they will have the same fate as the Nazis, wherever they go we will find them," family members chanted.

About 5,000 detainees passed through the Navy Mechanics School. Fewer than half survived.

The leafy former military campus, now home to a museum dedicated to preserving evidence of crimes against humanity, also housed a maternity ward where pregnant detainees were held until they gave birth and then were made to "disappear." A separate trial alleging that systematic baby thefts were part of the junta's anti-subversion strategy is under way in another courtroom.

Astiz has accused President Cristina Fernandez of promoting unjust and illegitimate prosecutions for her own political gain. Her late husband and predecessor, President Nestor Kirchner, encouraged the trials after Argentina's Congress and Supreme Court removed amnesties that had protected junta veterans.

"This government doesn't hesitate in its revenge against we people who combated terrorism," Astiz said. "It seeks revenge through martyrdom and death in prison."

Astiz is accused in the 1977 disappearance and deaths of French nuns Alice Domon and Leonie Duquet and a dozen other people, including Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo founder Azucena Villaflor.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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