Another human rights case witness goes missing in Argentina

Argentine human rights activist Juan Evaristo Puthod - a survivor of the last dictatorship in the South American country from 1976-83 and a witness in several cases over alleged human rights violations - appeared to have gone missing, authorities said Wednesday, the dpa reported.

An intense search was underway for Puthod Wednesday, after he went missing a day earlier.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner expressed Wednesday her "worry over the disappearance."

"I hope it is something temporary, I really do," she said in Pico Truncado, in the Patagonian province of Santa Cruz.

More than 250 police officers - some using helicopters - were looking for Puthod, 49, in Zarate, 80 kilometres north of Buenos Aires.

Jorge Julio Lopez - a key witness in the trial of Miguel Etchecolatz, a former police high official during the dictatorship who was condemned to life in prison for crimes against humanity - went missing in September 2006.

Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli stressed his administration's "worry and commitment" to finding Puthod.

He was last seen on Tuesday afternoon leaving the House of Remembrance in Zarate, which he leads, to go to the radio station where he worked, his wife said.

Provincial Human Rights Secretary Sara Derothier de Cobacho warned that "leftovers from the dictatorship" could be behind the disappearance.

Puthod was held and tortured at several clandestine detention centres during the dictatorship, Cobacho told Argentine radio.

Human rights groups have complained that police and justice officials have not done enough to find out what happened to Lopez.

In late 2006, another human rights witness, Luis Gerez, was kidnapped and mistreated. After 48 hours, he was found by police. The case has not been closed.

Under former Argentine president Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007) legislation that granted an amnesty to police and military officers was revoked. Since then, scores of alleged human rights violators are again coming before the courts.

Some 30,000 people are believed to have been killed by the 1976-83 dictatorship in Argentina. Most of the bodies have not been found.

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