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Argentina: Arrest Order Against Judge's Father Creates Controversy

In early 2010, Judge María José Sarmiento ruled against the Argentinean Government, impeding it to use reserves transferred by the Central Bank to pay debt. The transfer of these reserves is under discussion in the Argentinean Congress and its final use is now pending for resolution in the Judicial system and in the Congress as well, much to the dismay of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

However, last week, the Argentinean province of Misiones demanded the arrest of the father of Judge Sarmiento, ex-military Colonel Luis Sarmiento, who is accused of several charges of torture and violation of human rights between 1973 and 1977. Even though the District Attorney of Misiones demanded the processing of the 85-year-old ex-military officer in February 2006, the judge publicly denied knowing her father was involved in violation of human rights. The Judge has stated that the arrest was “obviously related” to her ruling against the government.

On Twitter, there were quick reactions to the topic. For instance, the member of the Parliament, Patricia Bullrich (@PatoBullrich), from Coalición Cívica, Government opponent writes, “I was outraged by the detention of the father of judge Sarmiento! Plain and simple Fascism”. User Netsum (@ReydePilos) showed his “total solidarity with judge Sarmiento. This Government won't stop prosecuting its political enemies”. Majo Garcia Menendez (@majogm) said it was “the father of judge Sarmiento issue was quite worrying. Things are getting shady, when are we going to react?”.

On the side of those who don't believe Judge Sarmiento's version, in particular the part where she claims not to know about the processing of her father before her ruling about the Central Bank reserves, user Ezequiel Pozzo (@Pozzoe) writes “Judge Sarmiento thinks judges are used with political aims. A thief thinks everyone else is a thief like him”. And José Duhalde (@joseduhalde) writes that “Judge Sarmiento said she didn't know her father was involved in a cause for the repression in Misiones. She lied”.

In blogs, as in Twitter, there were some posts from people who reported the judge was being pursued for her rulings, while others remarked the human rights cause came before the ruling. At the blog Listao [es], they cite sources that speak of Luis Sarmiento's participation during the illegal repression between 1973 and 1977. And at Tribuna de Periodistas [es], they say the detention of the ex-military was an act of revenge from the President and her husband, ex-President Néstor Kirchner.

Finally, the arrest order against Luis Sarmiento was suspended, since the defendant's health is very deteriorated, because of his age, although the human rights violation charges will follow their course.

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