BUENOS AIRES – An Argentine court on Monday sentenced eight former police officers and an ex-official to prison after finding them guilty of the deaths of five demonstrators and the wounding of another 117 during the repression unleashed by the political crisis in late 2001.
Judges Jose Valentin Martinez Sobrino, Rodrigo Gimenez Uriburu and Adrian Martin, handed down sentences of four years and nine months behind bars and a special ban on holding public office for nine-and-a-half years to former Argentine Security Secretary Enrique Mathov and four years in prison and an eight-year public office ban for the former head of the Federal Police, Ruben Santos.
In addition, the court imposed sentenced of up to six years on the other convicted former police officers.
Specifically, the court found that Mathov and Santos – who bore the most responsibility among the accused – were criminally responsible for the crimes of aggravated homicide and aggravated harm to other victims.
Others among the accused were convicted as the perpetrators or accomplices to murder or for crimes of weapons abuse or covering up a crime.
The court also acquitted six people and issued stays for two other defendants.
The specifics of the verdict will be made known on Aug. 4.
The trial began in 2014 to determine responsibility among officials and police for the repression of demonstrators on Dec. 20, 2001, during the state of siege decreed by then-President Fernando de la Rua amid a social upheaval sparked by a severe economic and political crisis.
The deeds under review took place in the Buenos Aires area, including the Plaza de Mayo, where the presidential residence stands, along with Parliament.
De la Rua was excluded from the trial as per a decision by the Federal Annulment Chamber, which decided that the then-president acted legitimately and constitutionally by declaring the state of siege on Dec. 19, 2001, in the face of the protests against his government, which took the lives of 39 people nationwide.
The state of siege declaration failed to halt the protests, however, leading De la Rua to resign the next day.