October 03, 1997

Argentine "death flight" officer to confess in Spain

BUENOS AIRES, Oct 3 (Reuter) - An Argentine Navy man who confessed his role in the ``Dirty War'' of the late 1970s said on Friday he would go to Spain this weekend to give evidence to a judge investigating the deaths of Spanish citizens.

In 1995, former Capt. Adolfo Scilingo became the first officer to make a televised confession of ``death flights'' over the River Plate in which hundreds of suspected leftists were thrown to their deaths in the River Plate and Atlantic.

His tale horrified the country and shamed the armed forces into making historic public apologies for the wholesale torture and murder of the 1976-83 dictatorship.

Human rights groups say 30,000 people ``disappeared.'' The government has accounted for almost 15,000 whose bodies were found or who disappeared into secret torture centers.

Scilingo was among over 100 Argentine Dirty War figures wanted by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon for the disappearance of about 300 Spanish citizens in Argentina's Dirty War. He is the only one prepared to confess to the Spanish judge.

Last month Scilingo said he was attacked by four men with police identification who carved into his face the initials of three well-known journalists to whom he had talked.

Argentine President Carlos Menem, who granted an amnesty to jailed Dirty War officers shortly after coming to power in 1989, has dismissed Scilingo was a ``delinquent.''

Menem's government refuses Garzon's requests for the extradition of junta leaders like Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, arguing that they were tried, jailed and pardoned for their crimes in Argentina and cannot be tried again by Spain.


Associated Press

October 7, 1997

Former Argentine Officer Arrested

MADRID, Spain (AP) -- A former Argentine navy officer who admitted throwing dissidents from airplanes during that country's ``dirty war'' was arrested Tuesday after he testified in a Spanish court.

Judge Baltasar Garzon, who is investigating the disappearances of 600 Spaniards during the 1976-83 period, asked Adolfo Scilingo if he personally had hurled people to their deaths, according to a lawyer present at the closed proceedings.

When Scilingo answered that he had, Garzon ordered him arrested, Carlos Slepoy said. Slepoy is representing the families of some of the disappeared Spaniards.

Spanish law allows the prosecution of genocide no matter where it is committed and regardless of the nationality of those accused.

National radio also reported the arrest of Scilingo, who had come to Spain voluntarily to appear on a television show, and had agreed to testify.

Questioning by Garzon, who was not holding Scilingo on specific charges, was expected to continue Wednesday.

Scilingo, a former lieutenant commander, had previously confessed to taking part the dirty war, saying in Argentina in 1995 that as many as 4,500 prisoners were drugged, chained and thrown into the Atlantic Ocean from planes.

At least 9,000 people were kidnapped, tortured and never seen again during the Argentine military's war on leftists and political dissidents.

The statement caused an uproar and led the Argentine military to admit publicly for the first time that it used ``illegal means'' during the repression.

Scilingo apparently chose to speak out to come clean about his involvement. Last September, he said he was kidnapped and slashed by people trying to silence him.

``It shouldn't be him testifying'' Scilingo's wife Marcela Valles in said Buenos Aires on Tuesday. ``It should be the Argentine navy. They should have to acknowledge the disaster they caused.''

Garzon has heard testimony from dozens of people as part of his year-old investigation. Last March, he ordered the arrest of former Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, Argentina's leader from December 1981 until July 1982.

President Carlos Menem of Argentina has ruled out extraditing Galtieri to Spain.

Garzon has continued with his probe, despite refusals by Argentina to provide information or hand over key military personnel.

Scilingo was freed from jail in Argentina in June after serving two years on fraud charges. He was released after the charges were dropped.