Argentine heirs' 1st DNA tests come back negative

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 11, 2011 8:18 PM
Argentine heirs' 1st DNA tests come back negative

By Helen Popper

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - DNA from the adopted children of one of Argentina's richest women does not match samples from two families who suspected the siblings were stolen as babies from murdered political prisoners, legal sources said on Monday.

A 10-year battle by human rights activists to analyze DNA from Felipe and Marcela Noble Herrera, whose mother owns the Grupo Clarin media empire, has become increasingly politicized in recent years.

President Cristina Fernandez, locked in conflict with Clarin since its newspapers and television channels turned against her center-left government in 2008, has urged the courts to help clarify the siblings' identity.

State news agency Telam, citing legal sources, said the Noble Herreras' DNA did not match samples given by the Lanoscou-Miranda and the Gualdero-Garcia families.

A lawyer for their mother, Ernestina Herrera de Noble, said the siblings' samples would now be compared to DNA taken from other relatives of victims of the country's 1976-1983 military dictatorship, which are held in a genetic database.

"This shouldn't take more than 72 hours ... . Once the DNA has been sequenced, it's a matter of checking it on a computer," lawyer Gabriel Cavallo told local television. "This is a positive result for us."

Cavallo said the Noble Herreras' decision to voluntarily submit DNA for cross-analysis showed they were willing to cooperate with efforts by rights group the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo to find children stolen from prisoners at torture centers during the so-called Dirty War.

POLITICAL RISK

Marcela and Felipe Noble Herrera, both in their mid-30s, have accused the government of using the case in the ongoing dispute with Grupo Clarin, which has rattled investors.

Fernandez is running for re-election in October and it could be uncomfortable for her if the Noble Herreras' DNA does not match any of the samples in the genetic database because her government has pushed hard for them to be analyzed.

The Grandmothers group has identified 102 illegally adopted children so far, and it says there could be hundreds more who have yet to discover their true identities.

Up to 30,000 people were kidnapped and killed during the Dirty War in a state-sponsored crackdown on leftist dissent, according to human rights groups.

Many of the babies, kidnapped with their parents or born to captive mothers, were illegally adopted by military families or friends of the military junta.

The Lanoscou-Miranda family thought Marcela Noble Herrera might be Matilda, a baby girl stolen in a raid on a house in which the child's parents, brother and sister were killed, the state news agency said.

The other family is searching for a boy born soon after his mother was kidnapped, also in 1976.

Although the genetic cross-analysis with the two families' DNA came back negative, the Noble Herreras' samples must still be compared to those of at least another 20 families searching for the children of murdered relatives, Telam said.

(Editing by Xavier Briand)