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Former Argentine dictator sentenced to life

By the CNN Wire Staff
Jorge Rafael Videla on trial in Cordoba, Argentina, on July 22, 2010.
Jorge Rafael Videla on trial in Cordoba, Argentina, on July 22, 2010.
  • NEW: Jorge Rafael Videla was convicted of kidnapping and torture
  • NEW: He and a former head of the army corps were sentenced to life
  • Videla ruled from 1976 to 1981
  • Up to 30,000 people were tortured or killed during the "dirty war"

(CNN) -- Former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla was convicted and sentenced to life in prison by a federal court Wednesday for human rights abuses during his rule.

Videla was among the coup leaders who overthrew then-President Isabel Martinez de Peron in March 1976. He ruled as dictator until 1981.

In a separate proceeding, Luciano Benjamin Menendez, former head of the Third Army Corps, was also sentenced to life in prison for violating the human rights of four people.

Another former dictator, Gen. Reynaldo Benito Bignone, was sentenced in April to 25 years in prison for kidnapping and torturing 56 people. He ruled Argentina from June 1982 until the nation's return to democracy in December 1983.

Up to 30,000 students, labor leaders, intellectuals and leftists who ran afoul of the dictatorship because of their political views disappeared or were held in secret jails and torture centers during the nation's eight-year "dirty war."

Videla and the others face charges related to abuses committed at a penitentiary in Cordoba and in the kidnapping and torture of six people, the information service said.

Videla, 84, has previously been found guilty of other human rights abuses, including kidnapping, torture and homicide. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1985 but released in 1990 under a pardon issued by then-President Carlos Menem to many former members of the military dictatorship.

Argentina's congress and courts have struck down the pardons and amnesty laws of the 1980s, clearing the way for rights trials to be held again.