An appeal signed by more than 800 persons asking the Argentine government for "the truth" about missing relatives was published today in La Nacion, a leading Buenos Aires newspaper.
The appeal which took up more than half a page and appeared in the form of a paid advertisement, was one of the few notices of its type to be published in Argentina's "self-censored" pressince the current military government took over in a March, 1976 coup.
Meanwhile, several of the signers, most of whom belong to a loosely connected group of women whose husbands and children are among of the thousands who have allegedly been secretly imprisoned or killed by military or police forces, said that at least 15 of their associates were themselves kidnaped Thursday eveining from outside a local church where they had been meeting.
The alleged kidnapers whom the women said arrived in five unmarked cars, also reportedly confiscated a list of the appeal signers and approximately $240 collected to help pay for the advertisement. The women said the kidnapers, all men, did not identify themselves, but forced people into their cars and said they were working as part of an "antinarrotics" operation.
According to local press accounts, police officals in the neighborhood and at federal security headquarters said they had no knowledge of the incident.
The newspaper appeal which was followed by the names and identity card numbers of the signers, was addressed to the president of the Supreme Court high military officials the ruling three-man joint a church authorities and the local press.
It quoted President Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla in a September press conference during his visit to Washington for the Panama Canal treaty signing as saying "whoever speaks the truth is not going to receive reprisals for it". At the same time, the appeal said Videla promised "a Christmas in peace" for Argentina.
"The truth that we ask", the appeal said, "is to know if our [relatives] are alive or dead and where they are. When are the complete lists of those detained going to be published?" it asked.
Estimates by international human rights and news organizations of the number of Argentines who have disappeared over the past five years, under the current and previous governments, range from 10,000 to more than 20,000. An estimated 2,000 have disappeared this year along. Government officials privately say they are holding more than 4,000 persons under an executive power decree authorizing imprisonment of anyone without charge and without potification of family for an idefinite period of time.
Most of the terroist actitivy that snurred the government's anti-subversive sweep over the past several years has ceased, and officals estimate that only 15 per cent of the original "subversive element" is still at large. Still, the govenment maintains that release of the names of those imprisoned would provide aid and comfort to the enemy.
Largely because of fear of reprisals, local public efforts to arrive at a definite list of prisoners are practically nonexistent. Most of a number of local human rights groups operate quietly in secluded little apartment and have until recently, tried not to publicize their activities.
It is the women's group - dubbed The Crazy Ladies of Plaza de Mayo after the park in front of the government's executive offices where they gather each Thursday afternoon - that has been most public in its activities and has been the most irritating thorn in the government's side.
Last October socres of the women, along with a number of foreign reporters were arrested during one of their regular park gatherings and held several hours. As usual, the women were walking around the park identifying themselves by carrying white handkerchiefs and offering written and verbal testimonies of their cases to anyone interested.
The women caught up with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance at a public wreath-laying ceremony during his visit here last month. While they were held back by security guards, the women waved their handkerchiefs and called Vance's name.