Argentina indicts 'death flights' navy pilot

24th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

A former navy pilot who flew so-called "death flights" during Argentina's military dictatorship, was charged Wednesday with kidnapping, torture and murder and remanded in custody, a court official said.

Julio Poch, 57, fled to the Netherlands with his family in the early 1980s and was detained in Spain in September on an arrest warrant from Argentina, where he was finally extradited to last month.

Judge Sergio Torres on Wednesday read Poch his charges, which include kidnappings tortures and murders related to the notorious ESMA (Naval Mechanics School) -- a torture site used by the former 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

The "death flights" were a way for the dictatorship to dispose of political opponents, who were drugged, flown out over the ocean in military planes, and then thrown into the sea. Witnesses have said Poch was one of the pilots.

Poch, who holds dual Argentine-Dutch citizenship, was also specifically charged with the kidnappings of two French nuns, Alice Domon and Leonie Duquet, Swedish national Dagmar Hagelin and Argentine writer-journalist Rodolfo Walsh.

After the hearing, judge Torres remanded Poch in custody and placed a 155 million dollar embargo on his assets.

In 1995, the former Argentine lieutenant commander Adolfo Scilingo admitted he had participated in the "death flights."

He is serving a prison sentence of 1,084 years in Spain for crimes against humanity committed during the dictatorship.

Some 30,000 people disappeared during the military dictatorship in Argentina, according to human rights organizations.

Of the estimated 5,000 people taken to ESMA, only about 100 survived.

© 2010 AFP

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