Argentine convicted of crimes against humanity

18th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

19 April 2005, MADRID-An Argentinean naval officer who threw political prisoners to their death from aircraft during his country's military dictatorship was jailed for 640 years.

19 April 2005

MADRID-An Argentinean naval officer who threw political prisoners to their death from aircraft during his country's military dictatorship was jailed for 640 years.

A Spanish court convicted Adolfo Scilingo, a former lieutenant commander in the Argentine navy, of murder and torture.

He was jailed for a total of 640 years -which means he will never leave jail alive.

The prosecution had asked the High Court judges to jail Scilingo for a 9,138-year term, comprising consecutive maximum terms for the murder of 30 of the former military regime's opponents, plus punishment for assorted other crimes.

Scilingo, 58, had been on trial in the Spanish capital since 14 January and is the first official linked to the dictatorship to be brought to justice abroad.

He was accused of 30 counts of murder, another 93 cases of causing injury, 255 of terrorism, and 283 of torture.

Argentina agreed in 2003 that Spain could try Scilingo as there were no equivalent charges pending against him in Buenos Aires.

In all, 30,000 political prisoners are believed to have disappeared during the Argentine military regime's rule between 1976-83.

Around 5,000 of them passed through the the ESMA naval mechanics school - a notorious centre of torture, rape and murder in Buenos Aires - where Scilingo worked for a year between 1977 and 1978.

Scilingo came to Spain in October 1997 and admitted to Judge Baltasar Garzon he had participated in the 'death flights'.

He also described how regime prisoners had passed through ESMA and said he has been involved with 'action groups' whose job it was to kidnap, torture and then dispose of

In addition, he said he was aware of the existence of a centre where babies of detainees were taken away from their mothers and handed to naval families.

However, during his two-month trial, which ended on 10 March, Scilingo retracted his comments to Garzon, admitting only to have seen a pregnant young girl raped at one point.

He also denied belonging to the action groups, insisting that he was only a "simple electrician".

Scilingo said he had made his original comments to Garzon out of a personal hatred of former Argentine admiral Emilio Massera. Scilingo said he told Garzon "millions of daft things" and that "I knew what we all knew".

At the start of his trial he feigned illness and had to be helped into court by two policemen.

Scilingo's defence counsel had insisted throughout that he never had access to the zone where the action groups operated.

A total of 71 people gave evidence to presiding Judge Fernando Garcia Nicolas, either in court or by video-link from Argentina; most were survivors of ESMA or other clandestine detention centres.

As well as handling the Scilingo case, Garzon has also been investigating  former naval officer Ricardo Miguel Cavallo, alias 'Serpico'.

Cavallo, accused of helping to orchestrate the disappearance of 227 people and the kidnap of 100 more, was extradited to Spain from Mexico in June 2003.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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