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Jorge Rafael Videla, Argentinian junta leader, dies in prison

Jorge Rafael Videla was serving life in prison for crimes against humanity during Argentina's 'dirty war.'

Jorge videla deathEnlarge
Former Argentine dictator and general, Rafael Videla, is seen during his trial to investigate the crimes committed during Operation Condor, a campaign established by Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Uruguay's dictatorships to quash the opposition during the 1970s, in Buenos Aires on March 5, 2013. Argentina's junta, which Videla led from 1976-81, is held responsible for the disappearance of up to 30,000 people during the so-called 'Dirty War' against political opponents. Videla, Bignone and Menendez are among the 26 defendants. Jorge Rafael Videla passed away in Argentina on May 17, 2013 at the age of 87. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)

Jorge Rafael Videla, a general during Argentina's "dirty war," died in prison Friday. He was 87 years old.

Videla was serving life in prison for crimes against humanity committed while he was the head of the military junta that ruled Argentina from 1976 until 1983. 

The period of dictatorship saw at least 15,000 people tortured and killed, though human rights groups cite the death toll at around 30,000.

The cause of death was not given, though some sources reported he died of natural causes.

He was the last surviving member of the three-man junta, and led the dictatorship until 1981. 

Pope Francis, an Argentine, has been accused of playing a role in the kidnappings of two Jesuit priests during that period as well, but the Vatican has denied the charges.

More from GlobalPost: Two discordant 'dirty war' narratives of Pope Francis continue

In 1990, Videla was pardoned for his crimes by then-President Carlos Menem in an attempt to move the country past its painful history. However, the supreme court upheld the overturning of the pardon in 2010, and Videla was tried and convicted.

The trial of those involved in the dirty war was hailed as historic in Argentina. 

“For the first time the members of a military junta are being tried by civilian courts for the crimes they committed during a dictatorship,” Ernesto Sabato, the Argentine novelist and head of the investigative commission, said at the time, The New York Times reported

The general also survived numerous assassination attempts, including one in 1977 when a bomb exploded on a runway in Buenos Aires near a plane he was on. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/argentina/130517/jorge-rafael-videla-argentinian-junta-leader-dead