Jacobo Timerman, 76, a former Argentine writer and newspaper publisher whose actions as an international champion of civil liberties resulted in his torture during 30 months as a political prisoner, died Nov. 11 at his home in Buenos Aires after a heart attack.
He was the author of "Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number," which told of his imprisonment and torture and became a bestseller in this country after it was published in 1981.
In 1971, he helped found La Opinion, a Buenos Aires daily. Mr. Timerman was the paper's editor and publisher. The paper was a moderate left-of-center publication that focused on politics and the arts and attained a circulation of about 150,000.
He ran the newspaper until 1977, coming under increasing pressure from groups on both the extreme left and right wings of the Argentine political spectrum. In 1972, his house was bombed by the Montoneros, an extreme left-wing group affiliated with the Peronists.
Ironically, Mr. Timerman supported the return of Juan Peron from exile and his 1973 election as president. But, after Peron's death in 1974, he opposed his successor, the legendary leader's second wife, Isabel Martinez "Evita" de Peron. He opposed abuses by her government and by the right-wing military group that took power from her in 1976.
Despite death threats, Mr. Timerman continued to publish a paper that called for human rights and demanded an explanation for what has been estimated as from 9,000 to 30,000 desaparaecidos, or "missing persons," who disappeared from their homes and were secretly imprisoned or executed by the government.
Then, at 2 a.m. on April 15, 1977, 20 armed, plain-clothed men broke into his home and seized him. He told of the next 30 months in his memoir, "Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number."
For months, he underwent electro-shock torture and beatings. He was mentally assaulted through simulated executions and extended periods of solitary confinement. Intense interrogations included questions about his "pro-communist" connections and his connections to "Zionist conspiracies" and financially shady dealings.
Finally, after two Supreme Court decisions found him innocent of any charges, he was stripped of his Argentine citizenship and put on a plane for Israel.
In Israel, he settled for a time in Tel Aviv and wrote for the Israeli newspapers Ma'ariv and Davar. He became critical of what he saw as civil liberties abuses in that country. He eventually returned to Argentina.
His "Prisoner" book first appeared in the New Yorker magazine and in 1981 was published with great fanfare by Knopf. In addition to living in Israel, Mr. Timerman spent time in the 1980s in the United States, where he hailed President Jimmy Carter for his human rights work and attacked the foreign policy of President Ronald Reagan as being soft on right-wing American allies in Latin America.
Mr. Timerman, who was born into a Jewish family in Ukraine and raised in Argentina, grew up as a Zionist and socialist. Once maintaining that he did not become a journalist but had been born one, he became a prominent reporter on the staff of La Razon, one of Argentina's leading dailies. In the 1960s, he worked in radio and television and wrote books.
In the early 1960s, he launched the newsmagazine Primera Plana, then later followed this with a second newsweekly, Confirmado.