A court in Argentina has convicted a former Roman Catholic police Chaplian of collaborating in murders during the country’s military rule.
Christian Von Wernich, 69, was convicted for involvement in seven murders, 42 abductions and 31 cases of torture during the 1976-83 "Dirty War". Survivors said he passed confessions he obtained from prisoners to the police. As he was sentenced, Father Von Wernich showed no emotion. Protesters torched his effigy outside the court.
The trial in the town of La Plata, 60 kilometers (35 miles) south of Buenos Aires, had lasted for three months. Wernich initially avoided prosecution by moving to chile, where he worked as a priest under a false name.
However, he was eventually tracked down by investigators and extradited to Argentina in 2003 when amnesty laws passed at the end of military rule were declared unconstitutional. At the trial, several former prisoners said the former Roman Catholic priest used his office to win their trust before passing information to polce torturers and killers in secret detention centers.
They say he attended several torture sessions and absolved the plice of blame, telling them they were doing God’s work. "Von Wernich participated assiduously and maintained direct contacts with the detainess", the prosecution said in its indictment..
Wernich’s lawyer said the case against him and that he had been obliged to visit police detention centers as part of his duties. The priest said he had never violated the prohibiyion against revealing information obtained in the sacrament of confession and accused those torture victims who gave evidence in court of being influenced by the devil.
" False testimony is of the devil, because he is responsible for malice and the father of evil and lies,"he said.