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Germany seeks ‘dirty war’ leader

Published on 03/12/2003

3 December 2003

NUREMBERG – Germany on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for Jorge Videla, 78, former military president of Argentina, on charges of murdering two Germans, prosecution authorities said.

The move vindicates a quarter-century battle by a German family to see justice done to the men who tortured and killed their daughter.

No application has been made yet to extradite Videla and two other accused officers from Argentina.

Videla seized power through a 1976 military coup and was the first of four presidents of a junta that ruled till 1983.

Human rights organizations estimate that the dictatorship was responsible for almost 30,000 deaths during its seven-year reign. According to the authorities, the toll of the “dirty war” was 15,000.

Warrants were also issued in Nuremberg against a former head of the Argentine navy, Emilio Massera, 78, and the commander of the 1st Army Corps of Argentinian Military Zone 1, Carlos Guillermo Suarez Mason, 79.

The three men are accused of the murder of Elisabeth Kaesemann, 29, a German sociologist who was studying theology, and Manfred Zieschank, 24, a German technical-university student.

The three accused had “jointly initiated regular procedures that utilized the pre-existing chain of command and that led to the killings of the victims”, the indictment states.

A German inquiry has shown Kaesemann was shot dead in the small hours of 25 May 1977 along with several other prisoners near Monte Grande in Buenos Aires province.

Zieschank was strangled in the course of May 1977 on the orders of Mason. His body was thrown into the sea from a military aeroplane.

Kaesemann’s father, Lutheran theology professor, Ernst Kaesemann (1906-1998), waged a desperate battle to free his daughter from the clutches of the Argentine military police and publicly accused German diplomats of being failures for not saving her.

Her body was returned to Germany later and she was buried in her home town, Tuebingen, on 16 June 1977.

Roland Beckert, a lawyer for the Kaesemann family, voiced relief at the indictment, calling it a “pleasant surprise”.

He said political reasons suggested an extradition of the former military leaders to Germany “is not likely at the present time”.

“But I do assume they will be put on trial in Argentina,” he said.

Guenther Teufel, a University of Freiburg medicine professor married to the dead woman’s sister, said, “It is very good that these people are to be finally brought to justice.”

He said that unlike many other “disappearances”, her killing could be precisely proven with evidence and several witnesses, creating a specimen case to prove Videla’s guilt for the wider range of killings.

The indictment said the three military leaders ordered prisoners murdered so as to cover up the fact they had been tortured.

German law allows the prosecution of crimes committed against Germans anywhere in the world.

Subject: German news