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    Argentines Lambaste Lax Sentences for Dirty War Dictatorship Crimes

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    Human rights groups in Argentina say sentences for Dirty War officers are too soft. The accused face trial for human rights violations during a military government crackdown in the late 70's that saw as many as 30 thousand people tortured and killed.

    Human rights groups protest on Thursday in Buenos Aires, Argentina against what they see as soft sentences against Dirty War officers.

    Demonstrators gathered outside a Buenos Aires courthouse early Thursday, plastering signs with pictures of the accused.

    The men are standing trial for charges against them for crimes that allegedly occurred during a bloody military dictatorship that lasted from 1976 to 1983.

    Among those on the defendants' bench was Reynaldo Bignone, who was the last head of the military dictatorship from 1982-83.

    Next to Bignone sat former Air Force Chief Hipolito Mariani and former SWAT team member Luis Muina.

    Mariani's sentence of eight years under house arrest evoked a vehement reaction from the crowd, many of whom held up pictures of dictatorship victims.

    Outside the courthouse, Nora Cortinas of the human rights group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo was disappointed by the sentence.

    [Nora Cortinas, Grandmothers of the Playa de Mayo]:
    "We can't tolerate these sentences. They are laughable for the crimes they committed. What more proof do they need? Do they want the victims who were tortured and killed to come up from the bottom of the ocean, to rise from the earth and testify against the crimes that were committed? What more proof has to be given?"

    As many as 30,000 people were tortured and killed during the military government's crackdown on suspected leftist insurgents.