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Argentine Arrives in Spain for Charges

June 29, 2003

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ A former Argentine serviceman arrived in Spain on Sunday after being extradited from Mexico to face genocide and terrorism charges for his role in his country’s ``Dirty War″ during which thousands of Argentines were killed or vanished.

After arriving at Torrejon de Ardoz air base aboard a Spanish military jet, Ricardo Cavallo was taken in a military convoy to Madrid for his first appearance at the National Court.

His extradition is one of the first won by crusading Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, who has taken on major human rights cases like that of former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Accusers say Cavallo served at the Navy Mechanical School, one of the most notorious centers of repression during the 1976-83 dictatorship, during which at least 9,000 Argentines vanished _ presumably killed, often after torture. Human rights groups put the figure closer to 30,000.

Cavallo has said that he was in Argentina’s military, but he has denied involvement in torture.

Cavallo was director of Mexico’s private National Registry of Motor Vehicles, when Interpol arrested him in 2000 after five former political prisoners alleged he had tortured them in Argentina.

Carlos Iriart, an Argentine attorney who is working on the case with Garzon, said Cavallo is scheduled to appear before the judge Sunday. However, it was not immediately clear if he would testify or whether Cavallo’s lawyers in Spain would request Garzon give them 72 hours before questioning him.

Garzon is investigating human rights abuses under the former military dictatorships of Chile and Argentina, and has brought charges against officials for the deaths of Spaniards in both countries.

An amnesty law in Argentina prevented Cavallo’s prosecution in his native country.

Hours before in Mexico City, dozens of people, including relatives of his alleged victims in Argentina, gathered at the airport to see Cavallo’s departure, yelling ``murderer″ and ``justice″ as they waved signs.

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