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Former Argentine Officer Arrested

October 7, 1997

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ A former Argentine navy officer who admitted throwing dissidents from airplanes during that country’s ``dirty war″ was arrested Tuesday after he testified in a Spanish court.

Judge Baltasar Garzon, who is investigating the disappearances of 600 Spaniards during the 1976-83 period, asked Adolfo Scilingo if he personally had hurled people to their deaths, according to a lawyer present at the closed proceedings.

When Scilingo answered that he had, Garzon ordered him arrested, Carlos Slepoy said. Slepoy is representing the families of some of the disappeared Spaniards.

Spanish law allows the prosecution of genocide no matter where it is committed and regardless of the nationality of those accused.

National radio also reported the arrest of Scilingo, who had come to Spain voluntarily to appear on a television show, and had agreed to testify.

Questioning by Garzon, who was not holding Scilingo on specific charges, was expected to continue Wednesday.

Scilingo, a former lieutenant commander, had previously confessed to taking part the dirty war, saying in Argentina in 1995 that as many as 4,500 prisoners were drugged, chained and thrown into the Atlantic Ocean from planes.

At least 9,000 people were kidnapped, tortured and never seen again during the Argentine military’s war on leftists and political dissidents.

The statement caused an uproar and led the Argentine military to admit publicly for the first time that it used ``illegal means″ during the repression.

``When we were given the go-ahead the back doors would open _ it was a Hercules-type plane which has a large door at the back _ the door would open about 40 centimeters and from there we would drop them one by one into empty space,″ Scilingo told Associated Press Television last year.

Scilingo apparently chose to speak out to come clean about his involvement. Last September, he said he was kidnapped and slashed by people trying to silence him.

``It shouldn’t be him testifying″ Scilingo’s wife Marcela Valles in said Buenos Aires on Tuesday. ``It should be the Argentine navy. They should have to acknowledge the disaster they caused.″

Garzon has heard testimony from dozens of people as part of his year-old investigation. Last March, he ordered the arrest of former Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, Argentina’s leader from December 1981 until July 1982.

President Carlos Menem of Argentina has ruled out extraditing Galtieri to Spain.

Garzon has continued with his probe, despite refusals by Argentina to provide information or hand over key military personnel.

Scilingo was freed from jail in Argentina in June after serving two years on fraud charges. He was released after the charges were dropped.

Update hourly