Fresh evidence against death flight pilot

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A new witness has emerged in the case against Argentinian-Dutch ‘death flights’ pilot Julio Poch. A Transavia staff member has given fresh evidence which implicates his role in Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ in which opponents to the military regime were thrown from planes into the sea.

Details of the fresh testimony were revealed in court documents drawn up by Argentinian investigating judge Sergio Torres in preparation for an upcoming trial. Last week, Mr Poch was imprisoned after Argentinian authorities ruled that he would be prosecuted.

Apparently letters written to Mr Poch by the military during the Videla regime have also been discovered by the investigating judge. Mr Poch supposedly received compliments for his outstanding work as a pilot.

Incriminating dinner The case against Mr Poch is based on incriminating statements of colleagues in Transavia, a subsidiary of Air France-KLM. The testimonies were based on a conversation held one evening in December 2003 when some 30 Transavia crew-members were flying on a Bali-Australia connection.

During a dinner in Bali, the crew started talking about Argentina. The witnesses claim Mr Poch then admitted to, and defended, his involvement in the death flights.

Witness heard it all The new witness was reportedly present during the conversation, although didn’t actively take part in it. The witness says she was able to follow the whole conservation and agrees fully with the interpretation of other colleagues - that Mr Poch was involved in the death flights.

The court documents allege that this witness was approached by Andy Poch, the pilot’s son, and the Foundation "Justice for Julio Poch", with a request not to testify against Mr Poch.

Mr Poch, who has dual Dutch and Argentinian nationality, is said to have been a military pilot at Argentina's notorious Naval Mechanics School - one of the biggest torture and detention centres of the Videla regime. Some 30,000 people disappeared or died during the junta's 1976-1983 rule.

Argentina issued an international arrest warrant for his capture in March 2009. He was arrested by Spanish authorities during a short stopover at Valencia’s Manises airport in September 2009, on his last scheduled flight with Transavia before retiring. He was then extradited to Argentina.

Six months ago, he was released, pending the prosecutor’s ruling. The prosecution claimed they needed more substantial evidence from Dutch witnesses before they could continue with legal proceedings.

Denies allegations Mr Poch moved to the Netherlands in 1988 to escape financial hardship in crisis-ridden Argentina. He quickly rose through the ranks at commercial airline Transavia and became a Dutch citizen seven years later.

He has protested his innocence, denying all the allegations, and is supported by his family and children.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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