Second Hearing

Witnesses claim that former Chaplain Christian Von Wernich had knowledge of tortures occuring in Clandestine Detention Centers (CDCs).

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Héctor Ballent, former government employee, stated today that Christian Von Wernich visited him on two occasions while he was detained illegally. In his testimony he also asserted that he begged the priest to report the tortures and abuses that were occurring in the Clandestine Detention Centers (CDCs), a request which Von Wernich denied. Further testimonies were provided by Juan Ramón Nazar, Alberto Salomon Liberman y Martín Aberg Cobo.

LA PLATA: In a crowded courtroom, and in the presence of members of the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, various Human Rights groups, and student and political organizations, the first series of testimonies in the trial of Christian Von Wernich began Tuesday. The only empty space in the courtroom was that which was assigned to the family and friends of the accused. Charged with murder, torture, and illegal deprivation of freedom, the priest and former Chaplain of the Buenoes Aires Police force also was not present for Tuesday’s hearing.


Tuesday’s Testimonies
Héctor Ballent, the first witness in the proceeding, stressed before the court that he was visited by Von Wernich during his captivity at the Clandestine Detention Center (CDC) Puesto Vasco, and noted that they had a discussion “which did not seem like one that [a priest would have].” In his testimony Ballent recounted the following:

“One day a priest arrived and started to talk to us…words of encouragement and he left. I said to one of the boys: I have a suspicion that he is not a priest; he is [just a police officer] that got himself a cassock, because he doesn’t use the language of a religious person…He returned [later], and started with the same old speech:‘Guys, why don’t you just do this one thing, confess what you know, so you will not be tortured anymore?’ And so I said to him, ‘Listen to me. You are a priest of the Church, how can you say this to us? You are aware that we are being tortured, so why don´t you do something to save us from the pain we are suffering?’ He did not respond to me, and he left.”

After a brief recess, Juan Ramón Nazar, editor of the newspaper “La Opinión” in Trenque Lauquen, Buenos Aires Province, and vice-president of the Confederación General Económica, stated that he was detained without cause in the Clandestine Detentions Centers at COT-I Martínez Puesto Vasco, and Police Station No. 1 in Monte Grande. He further stated that the priest Von Wernich – who arrived dressed in a cassock offering “spiritual aid” – promised that he “would help him” during their first meeting.

Nazar expressed that the priest moved about in the Clandestine Detention Centers like “a person familiar with a place,” appearing regularly and maintaining direct contact with illegally detained prisoners. In summary, he stated that Von Wernich’s role in the CDCs consisted of imposing primarily psychological and moral torture to prisoners.

In his testimony, the former Minister of Public Works for Buenos Aires Alberto Liberman also claimed that he was visited by the fomer chaplain in the first of the Clandestine Detention Centers that he was taken to. Detained at Puesto Vasco and Coti Martínez, Liberman was tortured until he provided information regarding the former government official Victorio Calabró.

Martín Antonio Aberg Cobo, kidnapped unexpectedly from his home in late March of 1977, stated that he was held at the Buenos Aires Provincial Police Department, in another location south of the city of Buenos Aires, and in the Central Department of the Federal Police. In the third of these locations, he shared a cell with Jacobo Timerman.

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La Asamblea Permanente por los Derechos Humanos La Plata es una organización no gubernamental cuyos objetivos son: Defender los Derechos Humanos en su acepción más amplia, contribuir a su enseñanza y a su difusión, dotar a esta temática de sólidos fundamentos jurídicos y académicos con una clara visión de futuro mediante la investigación y la docencia. Llevar adelante los reclamos de Memoria, Verdad y Justicia para nuestro pueblo. Llevar adelante el Juicio por la verdad, iniciado junto a otros organismos y particulares en 1998 ante la Cámara Federal de La Plata y a las causas penales derivadas del Juicio por la Verdad.

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