A group of eight local attorneys has petitioned Argentina's supreme court for information relating to the disappearance of 425 persons who they allege were forcibly abducted by "armed groups apparently acting under some official authority." None of the 425 has appeared on government lists of officially detained persons.
While Argentina's ruling military junta has consistently denied abducting and holding political prisoners without charge, Amnesty International put the number held at between 5,000 and 6,000 in a report following an investigatory mission that the organization made here last fall.
The petition is the second that has been made to the supreme court. A similar request, filed several weeks ago by the father of a man who disappeared last October, was rejected April 6, when the court stated it had no jurisdiction.
The lawyers ask for court orders requiring the ministries of Justice and Interior, as well as the federal police, to turn over all information in the files concerning the 425 persons. Habeas corpus petitions previously filed on their behalf have already been returned by those bodies stating that they were not, and had never been, in custody.
It is likely that the Supreme Court will also reject this latest petition. Argentine courts, in the same manner as Argentine citizens, have been frustrated by government refusal to provide such information on the basis that it has taken no prisoners.
In private conversations, however, government officials freely admit the holding of uncharged prisoners, some of whom, they say, may be only periferally involved with subversive activities of leftist terrorists, if at all.
These prisoners are taken, a junta Junta source said, because their names have in some way been associated with known guerrillas and they are wanted for questioning. While the government knows that cases against them would not stand up in court, either because there is no direct evidence or because judges fear reprisals from the terrorists, it is believed that their imprisonment is justified by what are interpreted to be conditions of war.
The Junta System, which amounts to a "Catch-22" situation for the families of those abducted, was at least partially broken last week by former President Alejandro Lanusse. He made a personal appeal to Argentina's current president, Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla, a member of the three-man junta, to determine the whereabouts of Gen. Lanusse's former press secretary, Edgardo Sajon.
Sajon, who is a member of the board of directors of La Opinion, a leading Buenos Aires daily newspaper, disappeared two weeks ago.
Videla subsequently replied that the government had no information on Sajon's whereabouts. Since his disappearance, however, virtually every newspaper in the capital has speculated that the apparent abduction had something to do with the case of Argentine financier David Graiver, who is believed to have been killed in an airplane crash in Mexico last summer.
Among several other disappearances associated with the case is that of Gustavo Caraballo, attorney for Jose Gelbard, who served as economy minister in the previous government of Juan and Isabel Peron. The Argentine government has requested the extradition of Gelbard, who now lives in Washington, ostensibly to face charges of misuse of public funds. Earlier it lifted his citizenship.
The Graiver case is a maze of complications involving Argentine politicians, unions and, according to some sources, the Montonero guerrillas who are the main target of the government's anti-subversion campaign.