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Last Updated: Monday, 7 March, 2005, 17:32 GMT
Spain seeks 9,138-year jail term
Adolfo Scilingo in court
Scilingo's trial is the first for crimes against humanity in another country
Spanish prosecutors have requested a prison sentence of 9,138 years for an Argentine ex-naval officer accused of crimes against humanity.

Adolfo Scilingo, whose trial started in mid-January, faces 30 counts of genocide, 30 of murder, 93 of physical injury and 255 of terrorism.

The crimes were allegedly committed in the "Dirty War" of the 1970s/80s when Argentina was under military rule.

This is Spain's first trial involving human rights crimes committed abroad.

"The government seeks a guilty verdict as it believes that charges have been duly backed up at the trial," said prosecutor Dolores Delgado in the closing arguments at the National Court in Madrid.

Mr Scilingo, 58, now denies the charges.

But in 1997 he went to Spain voluntarily and testified before Judge Baltasar Garzon, who was investigating crimes committed during Argentina's and Chile's military dictatorships.

'Subversive mentality'

In a taped confession, Mr Scilingo spoke of the so-called "death flights", in which dissidents were stripped naked and thrown alive into the ocean from military planes.

He admitted taking part in two flights and spoke of other tortures committed at the Buenos Aires Navy School of Mechanics, which was used as a torture centre at that time.

Mr Scilingo later retracted his confession, saying his testimony was fabricated in order to prompt an investigation into the atrocities committed under the regime.

But Ms Delgado said the descriptions of tortures and torture centres, with their "infernal sounds" and "nauseating smell" made by victims, coincided fully with those made by the former officer.

"Scilingo had a need to talk and be judged, and that has been proved in the trial," she said.

Mr Scilingo also described how the children of pregnant detainees were taken away for adoption to prevent them from "falling into the subversive mentality of their parents".

According to human rights groups, up to 30,000 political opponents were kidnapped, detained and later executed between 1976 and 1983.

Under Spanish law, prison terms cannot exceed 40 years, but for convicted members of Basque separatist group Eta it is not uncommon to be handed down sentences of hundreds or even thousands of years.

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