March 10, 2000
Trial of Argentina's 'Dirty War' soldiers to open in Italy

                   ROME (Reuters) -- Relatives of Italians who disappeared during Argentina's
                   1976-83 military dictatorship expressed hope on Thursday that a trial about to
                   open in Rome would provide answers about the fate of their loved ones.

                   The trial will begin on Friday of Argentine General Guillermo Suarez Mason
                   and six other soldiers charged with killing or kidnapping eight people of Italian
                   nationality during Argentina's "Dirty War."

                   The officers, who are still in Argentina, are not expected to attend nor does
                   Italian law oblige them to at this stage.

                   An estimated 15,000 to 30,000 leftists or suspected sympathizers died or
                   disappeared in the Dirty War. Among them was Italy's Martino Mastinu, a
                   trade union activist in the shipping yards of Tigre, Argentina.

                   Mastinu disappeared in July 1976, a few months after the killing of his
                   brother-in-law Mario Bonarino Marras. Vanina, Marras's daughter, was just
                   over two years old at the time.

                   "Sooner or later someone will say: you, you, and you are guilty. Here or in
                   Argentina it doesn't matter. But if it comes out here, it will be known in
                   Argentina," Vanina told Reuters as tears poured down her cheeks.

                   Vanina flew to Rome earlier this week to attend the trial with her mother
                   Santina Mastinu, the sister of Martino Mastinu.

                   The trial is likely to draw international attention as it opens a week after a
                   controversial British ruling allowing Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to
                   return home after more than a year under house arrest in Britain.

                   Britain said Pinochet was too ill for extradition to Spain to face torture


                   The other six missing Italians named in the case to be tried are Norberto
                   Morresi, Pedro Luis Mazzocchi, Luis Alberto Fabbri, Daniel Jesus Ciuffo and
                   Laura Carlotto, the daughter of one of Argentina's top human rights
                   campaigner, Estela Carlotto.

                   Families and human rights campaigners have sought the Italian trial for more
                   than a decade.

                   Italian prosecutors begun probing complaints about the Italians disappearances
                   in Argentina in the 1980s. Of the more than 100 cases under examination, only
                   eight had enough evidence to be admitted by a judge for preliminary

                   The Italian state is among those who have filed for civil damages. There are
                   reportedly between 400 and 500 people listed at the Italian embassy in
                   Argentina as "disappeared."

                   The seven Argentine officers -- Suarez Mason, Santiago Omar Riveros, Juan
                   Carlos Gerardi, Luis Jose Porchetto, Alejandro Puertas, Oscar Hector
                   Maldonado and Roberto Julio Rossin -- were ordered to stand trial by Italy in
                   May 1999.

                   Proceedings against non-Italians resident abroad for alleged crimes against
                   Italians must receive the authorization of the justice minister.

                   The hearing has already been postponed twice for procedural reasons.

                   Suarez Mason has asked to attend the trial but is currently under house arrest
                   in Argentina on charges of kidnapping and hiding the identities of kidnapped

                   The general was one of several prominent military officers convicted for the
                   junta crimes after democracy was restored in 1983. The officers were later all
                   freed in amnesties.

                    Copyright 2000 Reuters.