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The process most followed by the media in recent years in Argentina

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The process most followed by the media in recent years in Argentina

In Dolores, in the province of Buenos Aires, the trial of the eight accused of the beating that led to the death of 18-year-old Fernando Báez Sosa ended on Monday, a case that has focused the attention of the Argentine media over the past three years and in particular in last weeks of hearings. Five of the eight boys who ended up on trial, almost all rugby players in the same amateur team, were sentenced to life imprisonment, which in Argentina is equivalent to 35 years in prison. Three others were sentenced to 15 years for their active but indecisive role in the beating.

The case was followed very intensely by many Argentine media, both by the most tabloid sites and by the main national newspapers: in recent weeks, the testimonies of Báez Sosa’s family members and the defendants were assiduously reported, as well as the news from the process.

The murder took place in January 2020 in Villa Gesell, a town on the Argentine coast: due to its brutality, the age of the defendants (now all between 21 and 23 years old) and the racist implications of the beating, it had immediately attracted many attentions. On Monday, the verdict was heard by the more than 100 present in Dolores’ room and by two million Argentines who watched the live YouTube organized by the court.

Fernando Báez Sosa was 18 years old and the only son of two Paraguayan immigrants. On the evening of the murder he was dancing with some friends in a club in Villa Gesell, when a fight broke out between his group and that of rugby players. The managers had kicked the litigants out of the room, but a few minutes later the rugby players had surrounded Báez Sosa and started hitting him, by surprise, first with a blow in the back and then with one in the front.

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According to the reconstructions, at that point Báez Sosa had fallen to the ground and had been hit again with two more kicks, which had knocked him out. A witness said: “He didn’t even protect himself, he took the blows like a sack of potatoes.” Even in that state, he was kicked and beaten with great force for over 45 seconds, while one of the boys filmed the scene on his phone and the others kept away those who tried to help Báez Sosa or stop the beating.

During the trial some of the eighty-seven witnesses heard by the court said that the eight boys shouted racist epithets towards Báez Sosa and said they wanted to “take him home as a trophy”. Investigations into their private chats showed that the defendants bragged about the beating immediately after the incident, showed no sign of remorse and agreed to remain silent about the incident, despite being aware of Báez Sosa’s possible death.

The prosecution had asked for life imprisonment for all eight defendants, defining collective action as “an execution”. The defense instead supported the thesis that there was no will to kill. Máximo Thomsen, who allegedly delivered the fatal kick to the head of Báez Sosa, Ciro Pertossi, Enzo Comelli, Matías Benicelli and Luciano Pertossi were sentenced to life imprisonment for aggravated murder by premeditation. Blas Cinalli, Ayrton Viollaz and Lucas Pertossi were convicted as “secondary participants”, but the prosecution could appeal to obtain a higher sentence for them too.

During the trial, the topic of racism was never the subject of the courtroom debate, but it became one in the discussions related to the case in the media. According to many anti-racist associations, the Paraguayan origins of the victim are one of the reasons for the hatred and brutality of the assailants. However, the families of the defendants have repeatedly complained of the excessive attention paid by journalists to the case, and on at least a couple of occasions there have been tense confrontations between relatives and media representatives. Immediately after the reading of the sentence, Máximo Thomsen, one of the convicts, he passed outwhile the mother verbally attacked the judges and journalists present.

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