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Franco-era officials get closer to extradition

Buenos Aires Herald, 30-11-2013 | 5 diciembre 2013

franco criminalSpanish judge to decide on Argentina’s request


By Luciana Bertoia

Victims of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship yesterday celebrated when they heard that the Spanish government gave the greenlight to the extradition request issued by Federal Judge María Romilda Servini de Cubría regarding two former officials accused of torturing political prisoners during Franco’s regime.

“This is unprecedented,” Inés García Delgado, whose uncle was shot in 1940 in Spain, yesterday told the Herald, while she was celebrating with other comrades, who in 2010 filed a criminal complaint in Argentina to investigate the crimes committed during the Franco era.

Spanish tribunals argue that it is impossible to judge those offences in Spain due to the existence of an amnesty law but human rights and relatives of the victims have been insisting that the universal jurisdiction principle can be implemented in order to judge perpetrators abroad if in the country where the crimes were committed there are laws that prevent them from being taken to court. That principle was applied by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón to bring to court military officers who committed crimes during the last Argentine dictatorship (1976-1983).

Yesterday the plaintiffs received the best piece of news and they seem to be closer to achieving that goal.

“We did not think that Mariano Rajoy’s administration was going to pay attention to the extradition request but this is our victory,” García Holgado said.

On September 18, Judge Servini de Cubría ordered the arrest of four former officials that had served during Franco’s dictatorship, which ruled Spain between 1939 and 1975. Before arresting them, Madrid has to agree to their extradition. Only two of them are still alive: Jesús Muñecas Aguilar (74) and Juan Antonio González Pacheco (67), known as “Billy the Kid” and also one of the most notorious torturers of Franco’s dictatorship.

In a press release, the Spanish Justice Ministry said that Rajoy’s administration had received the extradition request on November 18 and that Courtroom Number 5 from the National Audience should be in charge of summoning Muñecas Aguilar and González Pacheco.

The plaintiffs do not know when Spanish Judge Pablo Ruz would be summoning the two alleged torturers. The magistrate will have notify to Franco’s former officials about their legal situation.

Argentine officials will probably be invited to take part in a public hearing before the Spanish court makes a decision on whether the two men are sent to Argentina to face trial, if the extradition request is not accepted and both of them are tried in Spain or if the extradition is rejected as well as the chance of taking to court both of the perpetrators.

However, Ruz will not have the final decision. The centre-right People’s Party (PP)’s government will have to decide on the fate of the two men.

Meanwhile, more than 20 victims of Franco’s dictatorship arrived at Buenos Aires to declare before Servini de Cubría. They will be meeting the judge next week. Some Argentine plaintiffs will be flying to Spain to discuss the next steps with the lawyers who are leading the case in Madrid.