Alfredo Astiz, a navy spy known as Argentina’s “Angel of Death,” was convicted on Wednesday night in Buenos Aires on charges of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison.
During the 1976-1983 “dirty war,” Astiz, then 23, served as a lieutenant at the Naval Mechanics School (ESMA), which was a known torture center. Along with 17 other members of the junta dictatorship, Astiz was convicted of secretly imprisoning, torturing and murdering 86 dissidents.
Among the victims included 12 human rights activists who were executed in 1977.
Astiz has been charged of organizing raids in Buenos Aires in December of that year and rounding up the activists, including two French missionary nuns. The victims were jailed, tortured, and then thrown off navy airplanes and drowned in the South Atlantic Ocean.
It has been 30 years since the last Argentinean dictatorship was taken down, and relatives of the victims have been waiting a long time to see the “Angel of Death” brought to justice.
Astiz had benefited from an amnesty law in 1987 which sought to restore peace in the country amidst a military rebellion. Despite the efforts of numerous European courts to extradite and get him on trial, he managed to hide in Argentina and escape punishment.
In 2003, however, former President Nestor Kirchner repealed the amnesty law, which has now led to 259 people from the “dirty war” dictatorship convicted of crimes against humanity.
Although Astiz’s team pleaded he was a young officer and only following orders, the court deemed him as directly responsible for the murders.
His “Angel of Death” nickname is derived from his gentlemanly demeanor and good looks, which stand in glaring contrast to the torture and murder charges he is guilty of.
A lawyer for the nuns’ families, who has been trying to bring Astiz to justice for the past 30 years, described him as “a special criminal who wore white gloves.”