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Argentine woman reunited with grandson stolen 36 years ago

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - A provincial music teacher in Argentina has emerged in public for the first time since being abruptly thrust into the limelight as a symbol of his country's reckoning with the brutal dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s.

Ignacio Hurban introduced himself to the public Friday as the long-sought grandson of Estela de Carlotto, a human rights activist who has spent the past 36 years searching for him and other children taken from their parents during the country's "dirty war."

Estela de Carlotto, president of human rights organization Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, smiles as she talks to her grandson Ignacio Hurban during a news conference in Buenos Aires, Aug. 8, 2014. MARCOS BRINDICCI, REUTERS

Hurban said he began to doubt his origins about two months ago, in part because of his life as a pianist, composer and teacher at a music school.

"I always wondered why someone would be involved in the arts when they had grown up in an environment that had nothing to do with it," he said. "I'm a musician and I wondered where that passion came from."

He decided to have his DNA tested and compared to samples in a database of families of leftists and other suspected government opponents who were killed or disappeared during the 1976-83 dictatorship.

The results linked him to de Carlotto, whose daughter, Laura, a university activist, was executed in a clandestine military jail in August 1978, two months after she had given birth.

Hurban, a 36-year-old from the small city of Olavarria, urged others who may wonder about their heritage to come forward and help the organization founded by de Carlotto, Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, to resolve the fate of about 400 more children whose whereabouts remain unknown.

"Whoever has doubts needs to come to take the test," he told a packed news conference in Buenos Aires.

Estela de Carlotto embraces her grandson Ignacio Hurban as others applaud during a news conference in Buenos Aires, Aug. 8, 2014. MARCOS BRINDICCI, REUTERS

The 36-year-old Hurban calmly fielded questions as he sat beside his newly found grandmother, but he brushed aside attempts to find out about his apparently illegal adoption and he praised the couple who raised him in the Argentine countryside.

He was brought up "by an extraordinary couple with the greatest of love," Hurban told reporters.

His sudden transformation into a national figure began Tuesday when de Carlotto announced that a DNA test had confirmed the identity of her daughter's son.

De Carlotto's search made her a symbol of the campaign for justice for victims of the "dirty war," a period when security forces tortured and killed thousands of people in a campaign against guerrillas and opponents.

During the dictatorship, children of the government's opponents were taken away and given to families sympathetic to the regime. With Hurban, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have located 114 of those children.

A judge has said she would call Hurban to testify next week about what he knows of his origins for a possible criminal case, but on Friday she decided to postpone the questioning until later.

Many in Argentina knew the long-lost grandson as "Guido," the name Laura had intended to give the boy.

Asked how he would like to be addressed, Hurban said he would stick with "Ignacio," the name he has used all his life and will continue to use in his career as a musician and teacher.

"I'm used to my name, Ignacio, and I will keep using it but I understand there is a family that for a long time has called me 'Guido,' and for them I am 'Guido,'" he said. "I am comfortable with the truth that has come to me and I am happy."

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