José Ricardo Arab Fernández, also known as “El Turco”, was born on 7 February 1941. He joined the army on 1 March 1958 and in 1967 he was named First Lieutenant at military school. He was promoted to Captain in 1970 and at this rank he moved to the Engineer Batallion at Paso de los Toros, in northern Uruguay.
As Captain, Arab served in the Information and Defence service (SID) in 1976. Under the nom de guerre “305”, Arab participated at the “300 Carlos” torture centre that was located in the depths of the Nº 13 Infantry battalion. Afterwards he joined OCOA, the body that coordinated counter-insurgency operations.
In 1976, Arab participated in operations that repressed Uruguayan people at the “Automotores Orletti” clandestine detention centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and he helped transfer some 50 citizens there illegally. Around 20 of them were passengers on Orletti’s so-called “second flight”. Various Uruguayan dissidents that had taken refuge in Argentina were locked-up and tortured at the centre. They were later secretly transferred to Uruguay under the “Condor Plan”.
In August 1977, Arab helped to kidnap María Claudia García de Gelman. Seven months pregnant at the time, García de Gelman was the daughter-in-law of Uruguayan author Juan Gelman. She was kidnapped with her husband, Marcelo Ariel Gelman Schubaroff, her sister-in-law and a friend. The sister-in-law and friend were released four days after the kidnapping while Marcelo Gelman was murdered after being subjected to heavy torture at the “Automotores Orletti” centre. At either the end of September or the beginning of October 1976, he was executed and his body thrown in the river. His wife, María Claudia, was transferred, in secret, from Orletti to Uruguay and, although she was not a member of any political party, she remained imprisoned until her daughter was born. Following the birth, María Cluadia was murdered.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights found Uruguay guilty of these crimes and ordered the state to remove all obstacles blocking the trials of those responsible for these acts.
On 9 February 1978, Arab was dismissed and demoted.
With the help of the Centre for Legal and Social studies, on 19 June 2002 Juan Gelman and María Cluadia García’s families submitted a complaint against Arab and six other servicemen for the disappearance of María Claudia García Iruretagoyena de Gelman.