ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In Argentina, former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla has received a 50-year prison term for running a systematic program to steal the babies of political prisoners just before they were executed. Other members of the junta also received long prison terms. The convictions are a victory for a human rights group made up of grandmothers who have fought for years to be reunited with those stolen babies.

NPR's Juan Forero reports that this may be one of the last big successes for the group's members because they are now in their 80s and 90s.

JUAN FORERO, BYLINE: For more than three decades, the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo have worked to spur trials for the dictatorship's henchmen. From their bustling offices in the heart of Buenos Aires, they've prepared legal briefs and tracked down witnesses. The most important ones are their grandchildren now men and women in their mid-30s who were born in secret detention centers and then illegally adopted, some of them by military officers.

Among the most tenacious of the group's members is Rosa Tarlovsky de Roisinblit. She's now 92. Her work began in the midst of a 1970s era dictatorship when the government sought to stamp out dissent by kidnapping, torturing and banishing leftists. Roisinblit's daughter, Patricia, was one of thousands of victims.

ROSA TARLOVSKY DE ROISINBLIT: (Foreign language spoken)

FORERO: On October 6, 1978, they kidnapped my daughter who was eight months pregnant. Roisinblit did the only thing she could, protest, joining others seeking information about missing loved ones. They marched on the Plaza de Mayo, in front of the Presidential Palace, where people still rally to this day. Roisinblit would learn that her daughter had been taken to a secret torture center and gave birth to a boy. She then disappeared, her body never to be found.

But Roisinblit and other grandmothers formed a group to determine what happened to their children and their grandchildren.

ROISINBLIT: (Foreign language spoken)

FORERO: It's been 34 years of work, Roisinblit said. Not one day or two days, but 34 years.

Her persistence paid off when an anonymous caller phoned the Grandmothers' office more than 12 years ago. He identified a 21-year-old man as her grandson. DNA testing and an official investigation proved the young man to be Roisinblit's grandson and not the son of the Air Force official who'd adopted him illegally.

ROISINBLIT: (Foreign language spoken)

FORERO: My grandson's married now with two children, Roisinblit said, and I'm now a great-grandmother. Hers was one of 106 grandchildren the grandmothers recovered. But another 400 born to political prisoners remain unaccounted for. Among those who are still looking is Elsa Sanchez de Oesterheld. She leads two visitors into a small room in her apartment and opens a closet.

ELSA SANCHEZ DE OESTERHELD: (Foreign language spoken)

FORERO: She unfurls canvases painted by her eldest, Estela. She also talks about the poems written by Diana. There were two other daughters, Beatriz and Marina. All four were killed in the late 1970s by the security services, along with their father. But Oesterheld holds out hope. Diana and Marina were both pregnant when detained, and it's possible they gave birth before being executed.

OESTERHELD: (Foreign language spoken)

FORERO: We don't know where they are, said Oesterheld. We assume they're in someone's care because in general they didn't kill the babies. But Oesterheld is now 87.

OESTERHELD: (Foreign language spoken)

FORERO: My days are numbered, she said. I won't live to be 100. I could die at any moment. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo are preparing for the future. The group has lawyers, psychologists and clerks who are young. Roisinblit says they will keep up the search.

ROISINBLIT: (Foreign language spoken)

FORERO: Sadly, with each day, we're older, she said. So the group we started with, which was much bigger, is now smaller. Juan Forero, NPR News.

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