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09May13


Uruguayan general found guilty of junta's 1974 murder of communist


Uruguay has convicted a serving general for dictatorship-era human rights violations for the first time. General Miguel Dalmao was sentenced to 28 years in prison for the death of a communist professor.

His defence lawyer, Miguel Langon, told AP on Thursday that he had already appealed against the verdict, calling the evidence "invented" and saying his client was being blamed for the crimes of a bygone era.

"This is speculation, 40 years later," he said. "A criminal trial is completely different than a historical study. You have to have proof These kinds of generalised statements can serve for a general analysis of the dictatorships of the Southern Cone [South America's southernmost countries - Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay] but against an individual? It just can't be."

Dalmao was a 23-year-old lieutenant in 1974, and was in charge of the jail where Nibia Sabalsagaray, a 24-year-old literature professor and communist activist, was taken from her Montevideo flat. Hours later, she was dead.

Dalmao claimed she hanged herself with a handkerchief from an iron peg in the wall that was just 10cm above her head. The military that ran Uruguay from 1973-85 agreed.

But Judge Dolores Sanchez dismissed the suicide claim, citing physical and psychological autopsies that showed evidence of torture and found that Sabalsagaray was optimistic and combative, not the type to kill herself.

Dalmao will not be jailed soon despite his conviction. Now in his mid-60s, he's been hospitalised for months with a heart infection.

[Source: The Guardian, Ap, 09May13]

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