EU Watch

​Condor Trial: Eight Sentenced to Life, 19 Acquitted

On 8 October, the first real appeal hearing for the Condor Trial took place, revealing new documents about Operation Condor.

by Roberta Martucci Schiavi

Historic sentence handed down

Eight people have been sentenced to life in prison and 19 people acquitted as part of the Plan Condor trial in Italy. The trial was held to establish accountability in the killing and disappearance of 43 people in the 1970s and 1980s. Twenty three of these people were Italian citizens who disappeared under Plan Condor, the multinational criminal organisation implemented by the military dictatorships of Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina, whose aim was to neutralise certain individuals. After almost twenty years of research and comparative analysis of the sources and evidence, and two years of debate, on 17 January 2017 the sentence of first instance was reached. This historic sentence recognised, for the first time in Europe, the guilt of the military and political leaders of Operation Condor. However, the acquittals had a huge impact, especially for the families of the victims who have been waiting for justice for forty years.

Appeal hearings to go ahead

Defence attorneys of the convicted defendants, the Public Prosecutor's Office in Rome and the lawyers of the families of the victims called for an appeal to establish the guilt of the defendants who were acquitted.

Only one of the defendants appeared in court for the trial, the former Head of the S2, the intelligence service of the Uruguayan Navy, Jorge Néstor Tróccoli Fernández, who is an Italian-Uruguayan citizen and is now resident in Italy.

The appeal trial officially began on 12 April. During the hearing, new documents were made available by the Uruguayans’ defence team. Some of these come from the archives of the FUSNA (Corpo de Fucileros Navales de l'Uruguay) of which Troccoli was also a member. In the Fusna there was a room, called "la Computadora", where the prisoners who collaborated were locked up and cards on the prisoners, and organisation charts of the subversive groups, were processed. The other documents come from ESMA (Escuela Mecánica de la Armada of Argentina), which is known as one of the junta of Videla’s largest illegal detention and torture facilities. More than five thousand desaparecidos passed through ESMA.

Next hearing postponed due to formal errors

On the basis of these documents, at the next hearing on 7 November 2018, a new investigation will be requested. New witnesses will probably be heard and new evidence will be added. The postponement to this date was, however, motivated by formalities linked to notification errors. A position relating to Pedro Octavio Espinoza Bravo, the number two in the Chilean Dirección de inteligencia nacional (Dina), whose name is inextricably linked to the so-called 'Caravan of Death' who is already being held in Chile, has been removed. It has also been declared that there is no need to prosecute two defendants who were already sentenced to life imprisonment in the first instance: García Meza Tejada (President of Bolivia from 1980-81, sentenced in his country to 30 years for genocide) and the Peruvian Richter Prada (Prime Minister of Peru from 1979-80).

After the 7 November hearing, the next court dates will be 12 November and 21 December.

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