Ex-general gets life for junta prison atrocities

A court has sentenced a former army general to life in prison for crimes against humanity committed in a notorious torture centre during Argentina's military dictatorship.

Eduardo Cabanillas was convicted of illegal imprisonment, torture and murder involving 65 people held at Automotores Orletti, a secret prison disguised as a car repair shop. It was used by Operation Condor, a co-ordinated effort by South America's dictatorships to eliminate dissidents. Prosecutors said about 300 people passed through Automotores Orletti, including Uruguayans, Chileans, Bolivians and Cubans; most of them were killed or disappeared.

A former army intelligence agent, Raul Guglielminetti, was jailed for 20 years while the former spies Honorio Martinez Ruiz and Eduardo Ruffo each received 25 years.

"It is a glorious and historical day that we are living and that the 'mothers' didn't think we'd live to see," said Tati Almeida of Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group.

Survivors of the torture centre say bound, blindfolded prisoners were given electric shocks and hoisted up by pulleys and submerged head-first in water in what was known as "the submarine". Running car engines in the garage covered the screams.

The trial reflects Argentina's efforts to resolve the crimes of the 1976-83 military junta. About 3,000 political dissidents disappeared during the dictatorship, according to official figures. Human rights groups put the figure at 30,000.

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