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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 August, 2003, 21:35 GMT 22:35 UK
Argentine priest arrested
Judge Baltasar Garzon
Garzon is trying to bring those accused of rights abuses to justice
An Argentine priest accused of human rights abuses during the country's military regime has been arrested after he refused to testify in court.

Christian von Wernich, a chaplain of the Buenos Aires police force during the 1970s and 1980s, is accused of taking part in the torture of opposition figures.

He is also accused of knowing the whereabouts of at least one child of a disappeared member of the opposition - such children were often secretly adopted by military families.

The news came as Spain's public prosecutor called on the Spanish Government not to ask for the extradition of a group of Argentine officers who were members of the military government.

'Dirty War'

Public prosecutor Pedro Rubira said that the cases of more than 40 officers - accused of human rights abuses - did not fall under Spanish jurisdiction.

The men were arrested earlier this month in Argentina.

Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon has been seeking their extradition in order to investigate them for alleged genocide.

Mr Garzon has led the way in trying to bring those suspected of human rights violations in Latin America to justice.

He spearheaded the unsuccessful campaign to extradite former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet from London to Spain.

More recently, he secured the extradition of former Argentine military officer, Ricardo Miguel Cavallo, from Mexico to Spain to face charges of genocide and terrorism.

Current Argentine amnesty laws prevent members of the country's former military governments from being prosecuted.

However Argentine President Nestor Kirchner recently signed an order allowing such officers to be tried abroad - annulling a previous decree banning such extraditions.

Up to 30,000 people were killed or disappeared in the Argentine military's campaign in the 1970s against what it called left-wing insurgents, in what was called the Dirty War.

Argentina's long wait for justice
26 Jul 03  |  Americas
Argentine suspects freed
23 Jul 03  |  Americas
Cavallo case sets precedent
29 Jun 03  |  Americas
Argentine faces 'dirty war' trial
11 Jun 03  |  Americas
Timeline: Argentina
26 May 03  |  Country profiles

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