BUENOS AIRES, April 12-Argentina's Army high command arrested former president Leopoldo Galtieri today and indicated it will convene a military tribunal to consider sanctions against him following a controversial public account of the Falkland Islands war by the former leader.
In his first major public statement since the war, Galtieri acidly criticized the surrender of the Argentine garrison at the Falklands capital of Stanley and charged duplicity by the generals who moved to overthrow him. The retired general also was quoted as saying he was "the pampered child of the Americans"--he considered his ties with Washington to be close--and that Argentina would not have invaded if the junta had known the United States would support Britain.
Galtieri, the leader of the military junta that conducted Argentina's three-month conflict with Britain, was ordered detained for 60 days at a military barracks by the Army commander-in-chief, Gen. Cristino Nicolaides. Informed sources also confirmed that Galtieri would be brought before a court of honor empowered to strip him of privileges or rank, or to order a court-martial.
The Army made no public statement about the action, which was revealed by military officials to Argentine media last night and reported by the government-controlled news agency Telam. The detention late today by military police represented the strongest formal action to date by the armed forces against a top leader of the Falklands invasion.
Galtieri, who served as Army commander for 2 1/2 years and president for six months, was ousted from power three days after Argentine troops surrendered in the Falklands last June. He has been living in a luxury apartment since then.
Nicolaides and other military leaders, who have sought to prevent former government leaders from speaking publicly about the Falklands war, were reportedly angered by the lengthy interview published by the mass-circulation daily Clarin on April 2, the anniversary of the Argentine invasion.
Although Galtieri's arrest was linked only to the interview, political sources said the severity of the Army's response could signal an effort to resolve lingering tensions over the military defeat by punishing the former president.
Galtieri was reported by sources close to the military to have violated a regulation that prohibits present and retired officers from making political statements without the consent of the commander-in-chief. While other high officials, including former Navy commander Emilio Massera, have been sanctioned in recent years, Galtieri's punishment represents one of the most severe applications of a rule only selectively enforced.
The action comes at a time when Argentina's current top Army leaders, who shared leadership responsibility with Galtieri in the conflict with Britain, remain under pressure from junior officers as well as civilian leaders. Many seek a public accounting for the loss of the islands and the removal of current officers who played a part in it.
Military leaders have sought to deflect their critics by appointing a special commission. It called Galtieri to testify two weeks ago in a slow and secret investigation of the conflict.
Galtieri gave his account of the war during July and August of last year with two Argentine journalists, who withheld the interview for eight months before publishing it without Galtieri's permission.
Although the former president offered little to fill in the wide gaps in public accounts of the government's management of the Falklands invasion and subsequent diplomatic negotiations, he admitted failures of military preparation and diplomatic strategy and confirmed reports of arms deals with Israel and Libya.
Galtieri attacked Gen. Mario B. Menendez, troop commander in the Falklands, and three other generals still on active duty, including Interior Minister Llamil Reston.
Galtieri said that he "had imagined that we could fight more. . .that we would offer greater resistance," adding that the short, portly Menendez "seemed to sink five centimeters every day."