Author Timerman Dead At 76

Jacobo Timerman, who defied Argentina's former ruling military junta by chronicling the brutal treatment it subjected him to while he was a political prisoner, has died. He was 76.

Timerman died Thursday of a heart attack in his downtown Buenos Aires apartment, his family said. He had been recuperating from a heart attack he suffered in June.

An author and journalist, Timerman survived bloody beatings and endured shock tortures at the hands of the junta's troops during the country's Â"dirty warÂ" two decades ago. He refused to yield during grueling interrogations and extended stretches of solitary confinement.

His haunting testament of torture and abuse was compiled in a 1981 book titled Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number. The book distinguished Timerman as one of his country's most renowned - and controversial - writers.

Thousands of leftists and their supporters were killed or disappeared during the military government's 1976-83 crackdown that became known as the Â"dirty war.Â" A government report written after civilian rule was restored said 9,000 leftists and other political dissidents disappeared under the dictatorship. Human rights groups say the figure is as high as 30,000.

Timerman, whose family immigrated to Argentina from Ukraine when he was five, was a crusading journalist when the "dirty war" began. He had used his liberal newspaper, La Opinion, to write extensively about what he believed to be rampant government corruption, repression, and state-supported anti-Semitism. His views often provoked death threats.

He was hauled away by plainclothes military men in 1977 and held until 1979. He was only released after harsh stints in several clandestine torture centers and jails, and what many later said was mounting diplomatic pressure by the United States.

Â"When he was seized he was the most hated journalist in Argentina,Â" said James Nielson, who wrote extensively about Timerman's detention for the English-language newspaper, the Buenos Aires Herald.

Â"For me, it was the most shameful moment for the Argentine press,Â" Nielson said. Â"Nobody said anything. People here accepted his arrest with complete indifference.Â"

Timerman's book on his confinement won international acclaim and drew attention to the disappearances. Argentine authorities expelled him in 1981, revoking his citizenship and stripping him of his property.

He returned to Argentina in 1984, one year after democracy was restored. He later chose to live in voluntary exile, first in Israel and later in Uruguay, where he most recently resided and reportedly was at work on his memoirs.

Several of Timerman's other works, including books on Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, were also critically acclaimed. He won a number of writing awards, including the Golden Pen of Freedom award from the International Federatioof Newspaper Publishers.

He is survived by his three sons, Hector, Daniel, and Javier. Memorial services will be held Friday in a private cemetery in Buenos Aires province.

By Kevin Gray
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