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Argentina Releases Former Dirty War Killers

The ruling came after Aznar's administration decided not to request 39 Army officers and one civilian accused of crimes against humanity
However, most of them will remain in prison, since Argentina overturned amnesty laws.

As the conservative Spanish Government led by Jose Maria Aznar decided last Thursday to override local courts and refuse an extradition request issued by Judge Baltasar Garzon over 40 Argentine citizens facing Human Rights abuses charges, Buenos Aires' courts released them Tuesday afternoon after receiving the notification from Madrid. However, most of them will stay under arrest, as they had been locally prosecuted on other charges not included in Garzon's request.

Among the freed by Argentine judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral are prominent serial killers as former navy captain Alfredo Astiz, already condemned to life imprisonment by French courts, after being found responsible for the assassination of three French nuns in Buenos Aires, during the juntas regime of the seventies. Also, Judge Canicoba Corral released Luciano Benjamin Menendez and Antonio Domingo Bussi, former army officers that led notorious massacres of leftist guerrillas in the northern province of Tucuman, under the constitutional government of Isabel Peron (1974 - 1976).

The decision prevented two former Argentinean junta leaders, General Jorge Videla and Admiral Emilio Massera, from being tried in Madrid. However, both Armed Forces leaders will remain under house arrest, as they have been also prosecuted for the systematic kidnapping of babies, who belonged to people reported "missing". Such accusation was not included in Garzon's extradition request order.

Spain justified its decision alleging Argentina has already paved the way to prosecute those held liable for the disappearance of at least 30,000 people between 1976 and 1983, as last week finally overturned amnesty laws. In fact, the case was a serious problem for Aznar's conservative administration, because it triggered a debate over the fate of thousands of people killed under the Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939), for whom justice has not yet arrived.

Despite Spain's decision, PRAVDA.Ru has learned that those released by Judge Canicoba Corral will not be free for a long time. "We have already overturned amnesty laws and subscribed international agreements regarding human right violations, so I think they will be tried sooner or later", Alicia Oliveira, Foreign Ministry Human Rights Department chief  told PRAVDA.Ru,.

Several human rights campaigners together with left wing parties presented appeals to the local courts in order to block dirty war killers to leave prison. Other judges have already accepted some of them, so it is expected that the Argentine justice will adopt a definitive position on the issue in the short term.

As already anticipated by PRAVDA.Ru, Argentina's Supreme Court of Justice will have the definitive word on the cases. The tribunal is waiting for a new member, Eugenio Zaffaroni, to replace Julio Nazareno, who resigned one month ago facing serious corruption charges. It is expected that once Zaffaroni joins the tribunal the courts will rule on this issue.

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