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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 September 2006, 01:00 GMT 02:00 UK
Argentine junta pardons revoked
Jorge Videla in 1983
Videla's junta took power in 1976
A judge in Argentina has lifted a pardon on former dictator Jorge Videla, who led the military government in power from 1976 to 1983.

A judge ruled the law on which the 1990 pardon was based was unconstitutional.

The 81-year-old, who has been under house arrest for years for kidnapping children, now faces new charges linked to the kidnapping of two businessmen.

Two former ministers, Jose Alfredo Martinez de Hoz and Albano Harguindeguy have also had their pardons overturned.

Kidnap and extortion

The battle for justice since the fall of the military government has been a long and arduous one, says the BBC's Daniel Schweimler in Buenos Aires.

Now, Judge Norberto Oyarbide has ruled that the pardons granted to three leading figures of that administration by the civilian government of Carlos Menem were unconstitutional.

Picture taken 30 March 1982 of a worker who is being arrested during a protest against Argentine dictatorship (1976-1983) in Buenos Aires
The authorities arrested many they saw as enemies of the state

Former Economy Minister Jose Alfredo Martinez de Hoz and former Interior Minister Albano Harguindeguy served under Jorge Videla between 1976 and 1981.

All three men could now be tried in connection with the kidnap and extortion of two businessmen.

Federico Gutheim and his son Miguel Ernesto - who ran a textile business - were held between November 1976 and April 1977, allegedly in an effort to force them to accept an export deal which was beneficial to the ministry of economy.

When civilian rule returned to Argentina many military officers were tried and imprisoned for the kidnap, torture and killing of tens of thousands of people during their seven years in office.

But subsequent civilian governments passed laws which allowed the guilty men to walk free.

Hated figure

Human rights groups and the families of the victims have never given up the fight for justice and have found an ally in the current President, Nestor Kirchner.

The BBC's Daniel Schweimler says that Mr Martinez de Hoz is one of the most hated figures in Argentina, unable to walk the streets in safety and with regular protests outside his home.

He was a key figure in the military government, seen as responsible for implementing repressive economic measures that benefited the military and a small elite.

Some of those actions will now be scrutinised and judged by an Argentine court.

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