Eight young Argentinian rugby players have been on trial since Monday for fatally beating an 18-year-old boy who was leaving a nightclub three years ago, a murder that shocked the country
The defendants, who are now 21 to 23 years old and have been in preventive detention ever since, appeared before a court in Dolores, 200 km south of Buenos Aires, where they face life imprisonment.
In the early morning of January 18, 2020, in the middle of the summer holidays, a dispute broke out between two groups at a nightclub in Villa Gesell (370 km from Buenos Aires), a seaside resort popular with young people.
The bouncers had expelled the protagonists from the square. Then, according to prosecutors, a group of players from a small provincial club in Zarate, 450km away, attacked young Fernando Baez, throwing him off balance with a punch from behind before hitting him to the ground. Images were captured by surveillance cameras and a suspect’s cell phone.
They “continued to beat him when he was practically unconscious, causing injuries that resulted in his death,” said prosecutor Juan Manuel Dávila, quoted by the official Telam agency. “They made the decision to kill and kill,” family attorney Fernando Burlando said.
About 150 witnesses are scheduled for the trial, which was originally scheduled to last 22 days.
The murder deeply moved Argentina at the time and led to protests in several cities, including Villa Gesell and the capital Buenos Aires.
The drama also had an air of discrimination, in a country with high levels of social inequality where rugby has traditionally been associated with the upper class: the attackers, witnesses said, had racially abused their victim while beating him.
However, this aggravating circumstance was not considered at this stage of the indictment for “homicides aggravated by surprise and the intentional assistance of two or more persons”. On the other hand, assault and assault against friends of the victim were held.