Dutch help Argentina probe death pilot case

10th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

A Dutch judge was to begin Monday taking evidence from 12 witnesses in an Argentinian investigation into a former suspected death flight pilot under that country's dictatorship, lawyers said.

Julio Poch, 57, who was arrested in Spain in September 2009 and extradited to Argentina in May last year, has denied flying planes from which government opponents were dropped into the sea while still alive in the 1970s.

The Dutch investigations are focusing on alleged admissions made by Poch to colleagues in the low-cost Transavia airline, notably during a dinner in Bali, Indonesia, in 2003.

Four former colleagues would testify that Poch had admitted involvement in the death flights, their lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld told AFP.

Another eight witnesses have been cited by the defence, Poch's Dutch lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops said, adding that the hearings, at Argentina's request, would take place over two weeks.

Argentinian authorities allege that Poch, who has joint Dutch and Argentinian nationality, was a pilot at the Naval Mechanics School, a notorious torture centre during the 1976-83 dictatorship, when some 30,000 people are estimated by rights groups to have disappeared.

But Argentina's federal court freed him from custody last month and no trial date has been set. In October the court had demanded progress in the case, including more evidence.

© 2011 AFP

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