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Argentine ‘dirty war’ suspect faces trial in Spain

18 July 2007

MADRID – The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a key Argentine “dirty war” suspect who is in custody in Spain will stand trial in Madrid, rejecting a lower court ruling that he should face justice in his own country.

Ricaro Miguel Cavallo, a former military officer considered a leading figure in the repressive military juntas that ruled Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s, was extradited from Mexico City to Madrid in 2003 after Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon charged him with genocide, terrorism and other crimes.

Garzon acted under a Spanish legal doctrine that allows serious offenses to be prosecuted in Spain even if they are alleged to have been committed elsewhere. One condition for Spain to act is that the suspect’s native country is not prosecuting the person. The doctrine is known as universal justice.

Cavallo had been widely expected to stand trial in Spain, but in December 2006 the National Court said it gave priority in the case to Argentina because the crimes allegedly occurred there and Cavallo is under investigation in Argentina. Argentina has repealed laws that once granted immunity to military personnel accused of abuses during the junta era.

However, the Supreme Court court on Wednesday upheld an appeal by prosecutors who want the trial to take place in Madrid.

The prosecutors, as well as lawyer for victims of the Argentine juntas, had argued that Cavallo was under investigation in Argentina for crimes different from those contained in the Spanish indictment and that investigations in that country was at a much more preliminary stage.

Cavallo, also known by his nicknames “Marcelo” or “Serpico,” has been in prison in Spain since June 29, 2003, when he was extradited from Mexico. He had been living there under an assumed name and running a motor vehicle registry. But a newspaper ran a front-page picture of him and five former political prisoners identified him as their torturer, and this led to his arrest.

Cavallo was a navy commander in Buenos Aires and worked in the Navy Mechanical School _ known by its Spanish initials ESMA _ which became a notorious detention center in Buenos Aires where thousands of prisoners were tortured or executed.

[Copyright AP with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news