Spain to decide on Dutch pilot’s extradition

7th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

The lawyer of a Dutch-Argentinean pilot, who allegedly piloted “death flight” in Argentina, maintains his client is innocent and is seeking for him to be extradited to the Netherlands.

Madrid – A Spanish judge Tuesday ordered that a pilot arrested over "death flights" allegedly flown for Argentina's 1976-83 military dictatorship be held in prison until a decision is made about extradition.

"The presiding judge decided to keep Julio Alberto Poch in detention because he is a foreigner and because of the seriousness of the crimes he is accused of," his lawyer Ignacio Pelaez Marques told AFP, adding that he had appealed the decision.

The 57-year-old pilot for Dutch airline Transavia, who holds dual Dutch and Argentine nationalities, was arrested on 22 September at the request of Argentine authorities at the Valencia airport in eastern Spain.

The former Argentine navy lieutenant allegedly piloted "death flights" in which more than 1,000 prisoners were thrown alive out of planes during the last Argentine military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983.

The prisoners included students, labour and left-wing leaders who had run afoul of the dictatorship because of their political views.

But Marques said Poch's name was not on a list of officers who belonged to the Naval Mechanics School (ESMA), one of the biggest torture and detention centres of the Argentine military regime.

"My client does not understand what is happening to him. This legal procedure seems a bit Kafkaesque. He says he was never based at this centre, he was based at another city in Argentina," the lawyer said.

Argentina requested Poch's extradition at the end of September.

Poch's Dutch lawyer, Gerard Spong, said he would ask the Dutch justice ministry to request that the pilot be extradited instead to the Netherlands given that he has Dutch citizenship and his family is in the country.

"Spain has to decide which request they will grant," he said.

AFP / Expatica

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