Former Chaplin Christian Von Wernich wore a priest's collar and bullet proof vest as he sat behind reinforced glass in a federal court. The court clerk read charges accusing him of collaborating with state security agents and covering up crimes in seven deaths, 31 cases of torture and 42 cases of illegal imprisonment. He answered basic court questions but refused to testify in the case, “Following the advice of Dr. Jerollini who is my lawyer. I am not going to declare. And I am not going to accept questions.”
At least 120 witnesses are slated to testify against Von Wernich and the court has taken precautions to protect their safety, putting up police fences around the court house and installing metal detectors. In the front row of the court room's audience, representatives from the human rights organization Mothers of Plaza de Mayo sat with their white headscarves listening to the court's accusations.
According to Nora Cortinas, president of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo – Linea Fundadora, the Catholic Church supported the crimes committed during the dictatorship.
“The heads of the Catholic Church participated in the dictatorship. Many priests were chaplains inside the barracks of the concentration camps. We want to point out that there is a sector from the church that didn't have anything to do with the dictatorship, on the contrary they supported us and reported the crimes committed at the time. But most of the representatives from the church participated in the celebration of death and torture.”
Journalist Horacio Verbisky recently published a book on the Catholic Church's involvement with the military dictatorship. Outside the courthouse, hundreds of human rights advocates rallied, demanding a severe sentence for the Catholic Priest. At one point, Von Wernich interrupted head judge Carlos Rozanski, saying he couldn't hear the accusations against him because protestors could be heard yelling 'Assassin' from outside the courtroom.
Christina Valdez's, whose husband was kidnapped and disappeared in
This is only the third human rights trial since