The Federal Oral Court of Tucumán on Friday acquitted ex-Army chief César Milani of all charges in the case of the disappearance of soldier Alberto Agapito Ledo during the last military dictatorship of Argentina.
Milani, who served as Army commander during the presidency of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, stood accused of having falsified facts over the alleged desertion of soldier Alberto Ledo, who disappeared in 1976 after being transferred for an Army operation to the province of Tucumán.
Ledo was a militant of the Marxist Revolutionary Workers Party (PRT) and, at age 20, was serving military service, which was then mandatory.
It's the second time the ex-Army chief has been acquitted in a human rights trial probing crimes against humanity in three months. Back in August, a trial probed Milani’s alleged participation in a 1977 operation that led to the kidnap and torture of father and son dissidents Pedro and Ramón Olivera.
After Friday's ruling, Milani left the building smiling, without making a statement. Hours before, the former military commander testified to the court, declaring that all the accusations brought against him were “false.”
“I am going to use my final words to express my firm conviction that [the charges], both here and in La Rioja trial, are based on false accusations. Rather than doing harm to me, they have punished the Argentine Army, depriving it the possibility of definitive reconciliation with the people,” he affirmed before the judges.
"It was an unprecedented political, media and judicial campaign against an Army chief, both here and in the La Rioja trial, based on false accusations," said Milani, who was head of the Army between 2013 and 2015.
“I am still standing, they will not break me,” the commander stated just minutes before the verdict was read.
Echoing back to August, Milani’s statements in Tucumán were nearly word-for-word with those he made during the trial in La Rioja.
He was acquitted there also on all charges, officially recorded as the illegitimate deprivation of liberty, carrying out an illegal search, the imposition of aggravated torture and illicit association.
Reitred Army captain Esteban Sanguetti, meanwhile, was charged fully with the unlawful deprivation of liberty and aggravated homicide of soldier Ledo— for which he was sentenced with fourteen years, which he will serve under house arrest.
The former captain commanded the 141st Battalion of Construction Engineers in La Rioja—where he was conscripted and where Milani served as his sub-lieutenant.
After hearing the ruling, Graciela Ledo, the sister of the victim, declared herself "deeply disappointed in justice," which she accused of being "complicit in the genocide."
"This sentence is a shame, the impunity of Milani began when he was appointed to the front of the Army without attending to the claims of the victims," he added.
The complaint representing the family had requested six years in prison for Milani and effective compliance sentences.
Milani, 65, is also being prosecuted for alleged illicit enrichment dating back to when he led the Army in the democratic era.
After retiring from the Army in June 2015, two years later Milani was arrested for his alleged involvement in those two kidnappings.