Diss Amnesty Group welcomes former socialist prisoner Perico Rodriguez for talk

MHLC-09-03-12 Amnesty Mar47'Amnesty International Mid-Warwickshire Group marched through Leamington on Saturday 10th March 2012, Marking their 50 years with banners for each year''Perico Rodriguez was Prisoner of Conscience in 1978 and  holding his won banner ENGNNL00120120313130720

MHLC-09-03-12 Amnesty Mar47'Amnesty International Mid-Warwickshire Group marched through Leamington on Saturday 10th March 2012, Marking their 50 years with banners for each year''Perico Rodriguez was Prisoner of Conscience in 1978 and holding his won banner ENGNNL00120120313130720

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A man who was imprisoned and tortured in an Argentinian jail for three years is set to return to the group that aided his safe release 36 years ago to talk about his ordeal and his work supporting other victims.

Perico Rodriguez was repeatedly tortured following the 1976 military coup in Argentina led by General Jorge Videla.

But through the action of two of his London friends, plus the work of the Diss Amnesty Group, his release was secured and he settled in Britain.

He now works for Freedom from Torture, which provides direct clinical services to survivors of torture who arrive in the UK.

Talking about his capture, Mr Rodriguez said: “I was town clerk at the time, in a place called Cinco Saltos in Patagonia. I was arrested six days after the coup.

“I was an active socialist, working hard towards change, but repression was widespread; you were either a friend of the military or their enemy.

“Basically, they wanted names and information, which I never gave them – not just because I didn’t want to jeopardise the lives of other people, but because I knew that once I did, I would die.”

It was when Mr Rodriguez’s case file was taken on by Diss Amnesty that the letter writing campaign to ensure his release began.

The Queen, the Pope, and the President of the United States were all written to by Diss members. Individuals and businesses which had links to the South American country were also contacted, including the Norfolk based Lotus cars which was employing Argentine racing driver Carlos Reutemann.

With the support of 18 MPs, as well as a petition signed by more than 700 people in the Diss Express area that was presented by Lord Avebury to the Argentine Charge d’Affaires in London, the Foreign and Home Offices were helpful in obtaining visas for Mr Rodriguez, his wife and two children.

In Spring 1979, he arrived at Gatwick to be greeted by the Diss group with a 20ft banner.

n For more information visit www.amnesty.org.uk/groups/diss