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Argentine convicted in atrocities

MADRID -- A Spanish court yesterday convicted a former Argentine naval officer of crimes against humanity for throwing 30 naked and drugged prisoners from planes during his country's ''dirty war" more than two decades ago.

A three-judge panel sentenced Adolfo Scilingo, 58, to 640 years in prison.

The court said Scilingo took an active part in the drive to crush leftist dissent during Argentina's 1976-1983 military dictatorship. His trial was Spain's first under a law that says crimes against humanity can be tried in this country, even if they are alleged to have been committed elsewhere.

Relatives and friends of victims of Argentina's junta era hugged in the courtroom and outside the court upon hearing the verdict. Some wore stickers with pictures of missing or slain loved ones.

Scilingo sat impassively and wrote notes as the sentence was read. His lawyer said he will appeal to the Spanish Supreme Court.

The National Court convicted him of crimes against humanity, and sentenced him to 21 years in prison for each of the 30 people thrown from planes.

He also got five years for torture and five years for illegal detention.

Under Spanish law, the maximum a person can serve in prison is 40 years, and only in cases of terrorism. The country has no death penalty or life imprisonment.

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