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Friday, 28 December, 2001, 22:32 GMT
Argentine 'angel of death' re-arrested
Alfredo Astiz
Astiz boasted of killing babies and children
An ex-navy captain has been arrested in Argentina in connection with the disappearance of a Swedish national who went missing at the time of the Argentine military dictatorship.

Alfredo Astiz, known by the media as the Blond Angel of Death, is also wanted in several other European countries for alleged human rights abuses.

Dagmar Hagelin
Mr Astiz is suspected of kidnapping 17-year-old Swede Dagmar Hagelin
He has been linked to the murders of numerous Argentine and foreign nationals under the military regimes which ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983.

Mr Astiz' arrest comes days after the new Argentine Government said it would lift a ban imposed last week by its predecessor on the extradition of alleged human rights abusers.

Earlier this year, the former frigate captain was arrested at the request of Italian authorities and charged with the kidnapping and torture of three Italians.

He was set free a month later because the then government of Fernando de la Rua decided Mr Astiz could not be tried abroad for crimes committed in his home country.

He was re-arrested on Friday after Sweden filed an extradition request over the kidnapping and disappearance in Argentina of a Swedish national, Dagmar Hagelin, in 1977.

Mass killings

Human rights groups say up to 30,000 people were killed in the so-called 'dirty war' against opponents of the military regime in Argentina, 9,000 of whom have never been found.

Mothers of the disappeared
About 30,00 people are believed to have disappeared during the so-called 'dirty war'

Mr Astiz belonged to a death squad from the Navy School of Mechanics and has freely admitted to taking part in killings.

The former captain has shown little remorse, telling a magazine he was "the best-trained man in Argentina to kill journalists and politicians".

"I'm not sorry for anything," the Argentine magazine Trespuntos quoted him as saying in 1998.

Amnesty

Many of the regime's top leaders were tried and sent to prison, but were pardoned by President Carlos Menem after he came to power in 1989.

Now, the new Justice Secretary, Alberto Zuppi, has said that his administration will help bring about trials of Argentine nationals accused of crimes against foreigners during the military period.

Human rights groups are hoping that this signals a major change in policy.

However, the interim government will probably only be in power for 90 days, and the change may not last.

See also:

15 Aug 01 | Americas
'Angel of death' walks free
30 Jun 01 | Americas
Argentine 'dirty war' officer sought
02 Sep 99 | Americas
Argentine human rights judgement
25 Mar 98 | Despatches
Argentina votes against amnesty laws
16 Jan 98 | World
Menem condemns former officer
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