Astiz Freed: Extradition bid fails
A former Argentine naval officer, Captain Alfredo Astiz, arrested in December at Sweden's request in connection with the killing of a 17-year-old Swedish student, Dagmar Hagelin in Buenos Aires in 1977, has been released by the Argentine authorities.
The courts and the new Duhalde government have confirmed the previous policy of refusing to extradite accused officers, insisting that any trials must take placed in Argentina.
This is just one of many murders in which he is alleged to have been implicated during military rule between 1976 and 1983 in Argentina's internal "Dirty War".
Captain, then Lieutenant, Astiz, was one of the commanders of Argentina's forces on South Georgia, which surrendered to the British Task Force in the first major action of Falklands War. The 180 prisoners taken in South Georgia were returned to Argentina via Montevideo, except for Astiz who was taken to Britain for questioning over his activities in the Dirty War.
But his status as a prisoner of war under the Geneva Convention was respected by the British who freed him and returned him to Argentina.
Amnesty blocks extradition attemptsNumerous attempts since then to have him and other more senior officers tried or extradited for their actions in the dirty war have failed. A major obstacle has been a general amnesty for acts of terrorism declared by the former Menem Government in an attempt to heal Argentina's divisions over mass kidnap, torture and murder by the military in which human rights organisations claim as many as thirty-thousand people disappeared.
During the brief seven-day tenure of Rodriguez Saa's interim Argentine government, his Justice Secretary Alberto Zuppi indicated it would help to bring to trial those accused of crimes against foreigners during military rule. But any hope human rights campaigners had of bringing these men to trial have been extinguished in Argentina's chronic economic and political crisis.
Captain Astiz, known as the Blond Angel when he infiltrated the human rights group, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, is also alleged to have been implicated in the murder of two elderly French nuns and some Italian citizens.
If Sweden's extradition request had succeeded, it could have opened the open the floodgates to bring to justice many other Argentine military men sought by Spain, Italy, France, and Germany.
Harold Briley (MP) London