BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — A former Argentine navy captain known as the “Angel of Death” was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for human rights violations committed at a notorious clandestine detention and torture center during the country’s brutal 1976-1983 dictatorship.

Alfredo Astiz sat motionless as a judge read the charges against him that included kidnapping, torture, homicide and stealing minors. Sentences also were read against 53 other people in the largest ever trial of its kind in Argentina.

Astiz’s nickname came from his cherubic looks and for his work delivering dissidents to the military junta as an undercover agent. He already was serving a life sentence for kidnapping, torturing and murdering two French nuns and a journalist.

Hundreds of people outside the courtroom celebrated as sentences were read. Some held a large poster with photos of the 54 defendants with a letter “P” for “perpetua,” referring to life sentences, scribbled over the men’s faces. Others held banners about the disappeared that read: “Tell us where they are.”

The trial was the largest and involved crimes against humanity committed against 789 people at the Naval Mechanics School – the era’s biggest clandestine torture center. An estimated 5,000 prisoners were held there. Some were drugged and later thrown alive from airplanes into the River Plate or to the sea in “death flights.”

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