Argentina court resumes major "dirty war" case

Buenos Aires, Feb 22 (EFE).- The third trial in the "mega-case" for abductions, killings and torture carried out during Argentina's 1976-1983 military regime by teams operating from the Navy Mechanics School in Buenos Aires resumed Monday with a continuation of an explanation of the charges.

The trial is continuing after the court system's Christmas recess.

A total of 56 people stand accused of various crimes, including former navy Capt. Alfredo Astiz, dubbed the "angel of death" by survivors of the junta's "dirty war."

In the trial, which began in March 2013, authorities are investigating 789 incidents that took place at the mechanics school, known by the Spanish acronym ESMA.

So far during the trial, various lines of inquiry in the mega-case have been unified with authorities investigating the period from 1976 onwards and the so-called "death flights," which saw political detainees tossed out of airplanes into the Atlantic.

ESMA was the dictatorship's largest illegal prison and human rights organizations calculate that some 5,000 victims of the repression passed through there.

The second phase of the mega-case, which includes nine trials for crimes committed at the clandestine prison, concluded in October 2011 with 16 convictions after hearing testimony from some 180 witnesses.

The junta leaders and those who carried out their orders were long shielded from prosecution thanks to amnesties approved by the Argentine Congress in the 1980s.

But lawmakers repealed those laws in 2003, opening the door for judges and prosecutors to re-open investigations of the crimes of the dictatorship, which killed some 13,000 people, according to official figures.

Human rights groups say the true death toll is closer to 30,000.

A declassified U.S. government document mentions a 1978 report from Chilean intelligence citing an official figure from the Argentine junta of nearly 23,000 dead in the first 2 1/2 years of military rule.