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Wednesday, November 3, 1999 Published at 04:12 GMT

World: Europe

Former Argentine rulers face extradition fight

Former president Leopoldo Galtieri is accused of human rights abuses

The Spanish judge pursuing the extradition of the former Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, has issued international arrest warrants for several former military rulers of Argentina.

Former presidents Leopoldo Galtieri and Jorge Videla, and the former navy commander Emilio Massera, are on a list of 98 Argentine citizens indicted by Judge Baltazar Garzon on charges of genocide, torture and terrorism.

[ image: The Spanish judge instigated extradition charges against General Pinochet]
The Spanish judge instigated extradition charges against General Pinochet
Judge Garzon has been investigating the fate of Spanish citizens who died or disappeared during military rule in Argentina between 1976 and 1983.

Correspondents say any attempt by the judge to extradite the former military leaders from Argentina could create the same kind of diplomatic controversy provoked off by his pursuit of General Pinochet.

Outgoing Argentine President Carlos Menem has long refused to co-operate with Judge Garzon's investigation into the deaths or disappearance of several hundred Spaniards during the military's "dirty war".

New president

But it is not clear how the President-elect, Fernando de La Rua, would react to any new extradition request.

[ image: Pinochet is fighting extradition to Spain]
Pinochet is fighting extradition to Spain
The charges stem from Mr Garzon's three-year-old probe of the Argentine military's campaign of terror against suspected leftists.

Official investigations found that more than 9,000 opponents of the military regimes were killed or disappeared, although some human rights groups say the figure could be as many as 30,000.

Thousands also fled the country, many settling in Spain where they have been working to bring those responsible for the alleged crimes to justice.

Argentina, unlike other South American countries, put its former military leaders on trial after democracy was restored in 1983.

Although they were given life sentences, President Menem later issued pardons and released them.

But a loophole in the amnesty law has allowed lawsuits to be filed against officers accused of involvement in the kidnapping of babies born to women held by security forces during the "dirty war".

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