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  • Hebe Bonafini, president of Argentina

    Hebe Bonafini, president of Argentina's Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, protests at the site of a secret military dictatorship jail in Buenos Aires in 2008. | Photo: EFE

Published 4 August 2016

Hebe de Bonafini has spent decades searching and demanding justice for children and grandchildren who disappeared under Argentina's military dictatorship.

Hebe de Bonafini, the iconic Argentine human rights activist and president of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, faces arrest after she refused to testify in court Thursday, although a federal judge has had to change the date of the order since police failed to detain her due to a human chain of supporters blocking off the area in which she is currently residing. 

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The federal judge said the arrest will not be done on Thursday, but at an "appropriate time."

"It's a beautiful moment for the mothers, this is what we want, people in the street, mobilized people, happy people," Bonafini told teleSUR. 

The activist confirmed she has sent the judge a letter highlighting how the same justice system which failed the families of victims of the dictatorship for decades continues to criminalize her in her old age.

"We will not be sad or afflicted, we will not be silent, or still, the mobilization of the people is what liberates us," said Bonafini

Argentine Judge Marcelo Martinez de Giorgi issued the detention order against Bonafini after she failed to appear in court to testify in a case which accuses the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo—an organization that searches for missing children from the dictatorship era—of siphoning off public funds from a social housing program known as “Shared Dreams.”

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In her letter to the judge, Bonafini wrote that she and others have already answered multiple calls to testify. She added the organization has made a “huge effort” to voluntarily provide “60 boxes of evidence, together with 40 back-ups, and other elements” for the case, but accused court authorities of not even reading what was provided.

“If they have to put me in jail, so be it,” said Bonafini, in a phone interview with Argentina’s La Nacion.

“I am not afraid of the consequences … for me the most important thing is the life and honor of my children and of the 30,000,” she added, referring to the estimated number of victims disappeared by state terrorism under the country’s 1976-1981 military dictatorship.

Bonafini described how she sought justice for her two sons and daughter-in-law disappeared under the dictatorship, but was disappointed. “Always the same disgrace, the same indifference,” she wrote. “I felt like the so-called justice was complicit with the military and marine murderers.”

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“And again we suffer in our own flesh the mockery that punishes all us old women from 85 to 90 years old, and condemns us to pay unjust debts of others,” she continued. 

Surrounded by crowds of supporters, Bonafini spoke in Buenos Aires’ central Plaza de Mayo Thursday afternoon, declaring that she has has no fear.

“We going to face this with the same courage as our children,” she said. “They can put us in jail, but they can never jail our thoughts.”

The Mothers also held their customary weekly march on Thursday to commemorate the victims of the U.S.-backed Dirty War that disappeared some 30,000, and to demand action on other social issues.

The arrest warrant comes after a federal attorney accused Bonafini of “inciting mob violence” last December when she called for mobilizations against the then newly-elected conservative President Mauricio Macri. She called Macri “the enemy,” reinstating the organization’s annual March of Resistance after suspending the action in 2006 under the “friendly” government of former President Nestor Kirchner.

Bonafini has been widely recognized for her activism, including UNESCO’s Prize for Peace Education in 1999 and Ecuador’s Nation Order of Merit in 2006, among others.

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