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Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Argentina refuses Astiz extradition
Alfredo Astiz, detained in Buenos Aires
Mr Astiz gave himself up on Sunday
Argentina has said it will not allow the extradition to Italy of a former naval officer alleged to have committed human rights abuses.

It is the best way to preserve the essential principle of sovereignty

Defence Minister Horacio Jaunarena
Alfredo Astiz, who was a key figure in Argentina's 1976-83 military regime, is wanted in Italy in connection with the deaths of three Italians.

He gave himself up to police in Buenos Aires on Sunday after an international arrest warrant was issued at the request of Italy.

However, Defence Minister Horacio Jaunarena said that crimes committed in Argentina should be tried by Argentine judges.

The minister said that despite Mr Astiz's notorious background, denying his extradition was "the best way of preserving the essential principle of sovereignty".

'Not sorry'

Up to 30,000 people are believed to have been killed during military rule in Argentina, including about 9,000 people who disappeared and have never been found.

Members of Argentina's Mothers of Plaza de Mayo
Women mourn some of the 9,000 "disappeared"
Known as the "blond angel of death" on account of his cherubic looks, Mr Astiz reportedly once told a magazine that he was "the best-trained man in Argentina to kill journalists and politicians".

"I'm not sorry for anything," he is reported to have told the Argentine magazine Trespuntos in 1998.

Mr Astiz was granted immunity from prosecution in Argentina in 1987, when the government decided not to pursue former armed forces personnel for crimes committed during the military regime.

French conviction

However he was condemned to life imprisonment in absentia by a French court in 1990 for his involvement in the kidnapping of two French nuns in 1976.

Dagmar Hagelin, a 17-year-old Swedish girl who disappeared in Buenos Aires in 1977
Dagmar Hagelin may have been abducted by mistake
An Italian court has linked him with the 1976 kidnappings of Angela Maria Aieta and the 1977 kidnapping of Giovanni Pegoraro and his pregnant daughter, Susana Pegoraro.

It is suspected that Ms Pegoraro gave birth to a daughter, and was later killed.

Argentine newspapers have reported that the alleged daughter is living in the port city of Mar del Plata.

It was common under the dictatorship for pregnant women to be kidnapped and killed after they gave birth. The infants were given to the families of military officers.

Mr Astiz is also wanted in Sweden for alleged involvement in the disappearance of 17-year-old Dagmar Hagelin.

The Swedish teenager was abducted in 1977 by a squad from a torture centre with which Mr Astiz has been linked.

She may have been mistaken for someone else. Her body has never been found.

Argentina paid an undisclosed sum to her father in compensation last year.

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06 Mar 01 | Americas
Amnesty case gives new hope
16 Jan 98 | World
Menem condemns former officer
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