An Argentine federal judge ordered former de facto president Reynaldo Bignone arrested in connection with human rights abuses stemming from Argentina's 1976-83 dictatorship, reported Thursday the Buenos Aires press.
Federal Judge Alberto Suarez Araujo did not issue a statement on the reports and it was not clear if Bignone, a former Army commander and the last president of the military junta, was immediately detained. Quoting unidentified court officials, Argentine media said that Bignone, 78, was to be held at a military base outside Buenos Aires ahead of a court appearance. Other reports indicate that the judge ordered Bignone's arrest amid an investigation into killings and abuses when the army was suspected of operating clandestine detention centers in Buenos Aires. Bignone was the last of four de facto military presidents before the dictatorship gave way to democracy in 1983. He governed from mid-1982, following the collapse of the Falkland Islands adventure until December 1983, when elected president Raul Alfonsin took power. Bignone took over from General Leopoldo Galtieri who resigned after Britain recovered the Falklands in June 1982. All along he has denied any involvement in the disappearance of dissidents during the military regime. Nearly 13,000 people are officially reported as missing during the military crackdown on dissent known as the "dirty war." Human rights groups say the toll is closer to 30,000 victims. However Bignone is accused of stealing newly born babies from jailed detainees. According to judicial reports the babies, with false identification papers, were given to relatives of the military or officials working for de facto regime. The humanitarian organization Plaza de Mayo Grandmothers has been able so far to find 90 children from the missing, mostly born when their mothers were in jail or were kidnapped from their biological families by the security forces.