Third Hearing

The Miralles Family testifies against Von Wernich.

[leer en español]

Julio Miralles, a former federal judge who was kidnapped and tortured during the military dictatorship of 1976-83, testified today in the ongoing trial of former chaplain Christian von Wernich.

Miralles asserted that Von Wernich was a key player in the operation of Clandestine Detention Centers during the dictatorship, claiming that “those who confessed to the father were tortured for these discussions.” Ramón Miralles, former Minister of Economy under Victorio Calabró was not available to testify due to his old age and health problems.

On this third day of testimonies in the trial of Christian Von Wernich, statements were heard from Julio Cesar Miralles, his brother Carlos Enrique, and his sister-in-law Luisa Guillar Riat, kidnapped on May 31st, 1977. The brothers each reported having seen a priest during their time in captivity, one who they later identified as Christian Von Wernich, Chaplain of the Buenos Aires Police Force.

Julio Cesar Miralles’ Testimony
Lawyers representing the joint claims of APDH-La Plata and CTA-Buenos Aires Province pressed the witnesses for precise information regarding Von Wernich and the specific Clandestine Detention Centers they saw him in Thursday’s hearing. Their stories appeared to coincide, indicating – as Julio Cesar Miralles suggested – that the priest “maintained close relationships with the [kidnappers] and torturers,” and was able to move through the Clandestine Detention Centers without any restriction, as if he were “a part of the group.” Miralles described meeting with a representative of the Church while detained as a strange experience: “To have someone representing the Church appear was as if God was giving you a hand, except it was the hand of the devil…”

Miralles further suggested that Von Wernich frequently appeared in the Clandestine Detention Centers telling prisoners “Children, you must collaborate so they do not torture you any more; if you do this, it will be for the benefit of God and the nation.” This testimony is of course in stark contrast with the image of Von Wernich that has been presented by the defense, that of a police chaplain who knew nothing of the tortures that were occurring.

In the beginning of his testimony, Miralles also indicated that he was afraid to testify and expressed his concern regarding the safety of witnesses. Perhaps substantiating these fears, the prosecuting attorney Alejo Ramos Padilla then reminded the court that Eros Amilcar Tarela, one of the most notorious implementers of torture during the dictatorship, is currently enjoying mere house arrest.

A sick and elderly man
In light of his poor physical health, the family of 87-year old witness Dr. Ramón Miralles requested that a written testimony be provided en lieu of an actual oral statement. Although the defense asked that a written testimony not be considered in the trial, the court dismissed the request, in view of article 391, section 3 of the National Code of Criminal Procedure. Miralles’ testimony in previous cases had established the presence of a priest in the “COTI Martínez” and “Puesto Vasco” detention centers.

For God and the Nation
Carlos Miralles told the court that he was kidnapped while staying at his father’s house with his wife and brother Julio. All three of them were transferred first to Police Headquarters and then to the COTI-Martínez clandestine detention center.

The witness confirmed that he saw Von Wernich in COTI Martínez and claimed that he told them: “Children, you need to collaborate so that they stop torturing you; if you do so, you will be helping God and the Nation.” He also claimed that he was tortured “on a bed and administered electric shocks. In various parts of [his] body.”

Ramón Miralles’ sons indicated that the other members of the family were also “taken hostage” with the intent of forcing their father to turn himself in, though they were held in captivity even after Ramón Miralles was eventually detained. They also revealed information on the torturers, identifying them as “Trimarco” (Eros Tarela), “Saracho” (Milton Pretti) and a third repressor known as “the white lion” (Maire).

Louisa Guillar Riat de Miralles, clearly shaken by her experience, struggled at times to deliver her testimony. Finally, judge Rozansky asked that there be no further questions for Miralles, since “she is in a vulnerable state.” Riat declared that she never saw a priest, but that she knew that there was one visiting COTI Martínez.

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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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