Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Monday, 18 January 2010

Spain to extradite 'dirty war' pilot to Argentina

Julio Alberto Poch. Handout photo released by Spanish police
Julio Alberto Poch denies involvement in so-called "death flights".

A Spanish court has agreed to extradite a pilot held for his alleged role in Argentina's "dirty war".

Julio Alberto Poch, 57, an airline pilot, has been in custody in Madrid since his arrest last month.

He is wanted in Argentina for allegedly flying planes used to dump opponents of the military regime into the sea - known as "death flights".

Mr Poch denies the allegations. Some 30,000 people disappeared or died during the junta's 1976-1983 rule.

Mr Poch was held during a short stopover at Valencia's Manises airport on 22 September, while flying an aircraft for Dutch Transavia airlines, a subsidiary of Air France-KLM.

Ex-President Jorge Videla: Serving a 1985 life sentence for the murder, torture and detention of hundreds
Ex-naval officer Adolfo Scilingo: Given 640 years in prison in 2005 for involvement in death flights
Ex-General Santiago Omar Riveros: convicted in 2009 for murder; his intelligence chief and four others jailed
Ex-police chief Miguel Etchecolatz: serving a 2006 life sentence for kidnap, torture and murder

The 57-year-old, who has dual Dutch and Argentine nationality, is said to have been a military pilot at Argentina's notorious Naval Mechanics School - one of the biggest torture and detention centres of the Argentine military regime.

The court said in its ruling there were sufficient guarantees to ensure that Mr Poch would have a fair trial in Argentina.

In October last year, a judge rejected a request by Mr Poch's lawyer to secure his release.

He argued that his client denied ever having been based at the Naval Mechanics School.

In 2005, Argentina's Supreme Court struck down amnesty laws which had shielded alleged human rights abusers from prosecution.

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