Former dictator faces Spanish extradition
Former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla and ex-army chief Guillermo Suarez Mason are both facing extradition charges for human rights abuses.
Last Modified: 07 Aug 2003 20:55 GMT
President Kirchner's push to roundup former officials of the military junta could give closure to many
Former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla and ex-army chief Guillermo Suarez Mason are both facing extradition charges for human rights abuses.

A federal judge has begun investigating Spain’s request that both be extradited.

Four other former offices were at the hearing. Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, famous for trying to extradite Chile’s General Pinochet from Britain in 2001, has requested their extradition for abuses during Argentina's 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

During the "informational hearing," Federal Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral advised Videla, Suarez Mason and the remaining four of the Spanish request, AFP reported.

The move is the latest in the chronicle of President Nestor Kirchner's bid to roundup and make accountable officials who served under the dictatorship, during which some 30,000 people were killed or disappeared.

Decision could take months

Canicoba said any decision on the extradiction request could take months. The arrests were made possible by Kirchner's recent repeal of a decree that barred the extradition of dictatorship collaborators.

In a separate incident, Argentine authorities Wednesday detained a Roman Catholic priest, accusing him of helping police and army torturers extract information from leftists during the “Dirty War”.

A judge will decide in the next few days whether to press criminal charges against Father Christian von Wernich. He is a former police chaplain and has been the target of street protests, demanding his arrest, for the past ten years.

Priest collaborators

Von Wernich is one of a number of Argentine priests accused by state prosecutors of collaborating with the military junta.

Among others arrested in the past month, former naval captain Alfredo Aztiz - known as the ‘blond angel of death,’ is one of the most infamous.

Astiz reportedly ran a death squad and was handed down a life sentence in absentia by French courts for the murder of two French nuns.

Kirchner is the first Argentine President to push for closure to one of the Latin America’s darkest chapters. 

Mothers of Plaza de Mayo

His predecessors largely ignored the pleas of groups such as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo for information as to the whereabouts of their children, abducted during the dirty war. 

The women became a world-wide symbol of human rights activism and courage demonstrating for more than 20 years, meeting every Thursday at 3:30 pm in the famous Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, demanding to know the fates of loved ones.

Aljazeera + Agencies
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