Tuesday, July 30th 2002 - 21:00 UTC

Galtieri allowed to return to house arrest

Former Argentine dictator Leopoldo Galtieri will be released from jail and held under house arrest while a judge investigates if he played any role in the torture and execution of 22 guerrillas in 1980.

The 72-year-old general, who led Argentina to war with Britain over the Falkland Islands in 1982, was arrested with 42 others on July 11 and had been held in a military jail in the outskirts of Buenos Aires since then.

Federal Judge Jorge Urso ruled Monday that Galtieri and seven other officers could be detained at home while their roles in the killings are investigated. All eight men are over 70, the age at which house arrest is usually granted in Argentina.

The guerillas were members of the far-left Monteneros movement who had returned to Argentina from exile to launch a counteroffensive against the military junta that governed the country from 1976-83.

During the military junta, about 9,000 dissidents were killed or disappeared and weren't heard from again, according to the government. Human rights groups say the figure is closer to 30,000.

Galtieri was the third of the military junta's four presidents, serving just eight months from 1981-1982. He fell from power after Great Britain retook the Falklands Islands, following an Argentine invasion he ordered.

Galtieri was one of a number of former military leaders from the junta who were imprisoned in 1985. In 1990, then-President Carlos Menem pardoned them.

Galtieri has spent the last three years under house arrest on charges of kidnapping and then arranging the adoption of children belonging to mothers who disappeared during the military's rule.

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