Three in Argentina on trial for French tourist murders

25th March 2014, Comments 0 comments

Three men went on trial in Argentina Tuesday for the rape and murder of two young French tourists whose bodies were found in a scenic park overlooking the city.

About 200 people are to testify before three judges in the trial, which is expected to conclude May 16.

Cassandre Bouvier, 29, and Houria Moumni, 24, were last seen as they entered La Quebrada de San Lorenzo park overlooking Salta in the afternoon of July 15, 2011.

They were found shot to death July 29, their partially clad bodies dumped near a scenic overlook in the park.

Bouvier's mother, Helen Kottak, spoke about her daughter in a barely audible voice, asking that "justice be done."

Bouvier "would have been 32. But her path was crossed by the wickedness, the barbarism, the monstrousness that humanity is capable of," Kottak said.

Lahoucine Moumni, a frail man of Moroccan origin, talked about his pride at seeing his daughter Houria go to college.

His wife Zohra Moumni, her head wrapped in a black hijab, then addressed the judges.

"Why has my daughter been taken? I'm searching for the truth," she said, then described the last phone conversation she had with the young woman on the day of the crime.

The three accused -- Gustavo Lasi, 27, Daniel Vilte, 28, and Santos Vera, 34 -- were led into the courtroom in handcuffs to hear the charges and showed no emotion as they listened to the charges.

Lasi, a former city employee and occasional guide at the park, is the main suspect.

DNA tests linked him to the women's rape.

He has acknowledged sexually assaulting them, but insists he did not kill them, blaming the other two suspects for their murders.

Vilte, a bricklayer, and Vera, a groundskeeper, deny any connection to the crime.

The three have been detained awaiting trial since 2011.

© 2014 AFP

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