Hebe de Bonafini, head of the Argentinian human rights group Madres de Plaza de Mayo, has been indicted by a judge on charges of misusing public funds.
The 88 year old has been charged with misusing funds allocated to a social housing project called Shared Dreams, which Madres de Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of Plaza de Mayo) managed on behalf of former Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Bonafini remains a close associate of the former President, and has stated her belief that the case against her is politically motivated and is being driven by current President Mauricio Macri, who was elected in 2015.
Prosecutors have accused Bonafini and her former aide Sergio Schlokender of diverting approximately US$13 million of funding that was intended to be used in the programme. She has maintained her innocence throughout the investigation and has repeatedly refused to appear in court and give evidence.
The mothers are one of Argentina’s most famous human rights groups and have been widely praised for their work and action, including by the Pope and celebrities such as Sting and Bono.
The movement developed during the Argentinan military junta of 1976-1983, when a group of mothers began parading around the central square of Buenos Aires in front of the Casa Rosada presidential palace to raise awareness of the ‘disappeared’ children, many of whom were left wing activists – a tradition which they still carry out every Thursday.
The Shared Dreams programme was brought to a sudden halt in 2011, when it emerged that Schlokender was a major shareholder in the construction company contracted by the mothers.
Argentina’s past has become an increasingly controversial topic in recent weeks after the sentence of a former military officer convicted of torture and kidnapping during the military regime was shortened. Macri has previously branded Bonafini ‘crazy’ and accused the mothers of massively overstating the number of ‘disappeared’.