“No need” to arrest former Franco officers, prosecutors tell court

Filing argues that statute of limitations has run out on alleged crimes Extradition requests have been handed over to court, minister confirms

Spanish public prosecutors on Tuesday said they would not ask the High Court to arrest three former law enforcement officers wanted by an Argentinean judge, who is investigating them on allegations of torture committed under the Francisco Franco dictatorship (1939-75).

In their court filing, prosecutors argue that arrest warrants issued last week by Buenos Aires Judge María Servini de Cubría are not valid because they lack details of the alleged crimes committed by the men. They also point out that the former law enforcement officials, who are being investigated by the judge under the doctrine of universal justice, are protected by Spain’s Amnesty Law of 1977. They go on to argue that the statute of limitations has run out on the alleged crimes.

Servini issued international arrest warrants and has requested the extraditions of former Civil Guard officer Jesús Muñecas Aguilar; Franco’s ex-bodyguard Celso Galván Abascal; former police commissioner José Ignacio Giralte González; and former police inspector José Antonio González Pacheco, who was known as “Billy the Kid.”

Galván Abascal is reported to have died in 2009.

A judge in Argentina has issued international arrest warrants and requested the extraditions

Several complaints have been filed with the Buenos Aires court, accusing the men of torture and beatings when the alleged victims were held in custody in the late 1960s and 1970s.

The judge requested that Interpol and the Spanish authorities immediately detain the men, but in their filing the prosecutors told the High Court — which has jurisdiction in matters of extradition — that “it was neither urgent nor necessary.”

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz confirmed Tuesday that the extradition requests were given to the High Court.

“According to usual procedures, the police and prosecutors are waiting to see what the High Court decides,” he told reporters.

Meanwhile, the Argentinean Foreign Ministry has ordered its consulates around the world to take testimony from anyone who wants to report crimes that were committed during the Franco dictatorship in Spain, judicial sources said Monday.

More than a year ago, Servini, the judge who opened an investigation into officials from the Franco regime, asked the Argentinean Foreign Ministry to allow diplomats to take complaints from anyone living in a third country so that they would not have to travel to Buenos Aires to do so.

The men are accused of torture and beatings when alleged victims were held in custody

After some Spanish families failed to find justice in Spain to prosecute those responsible for these crimes, they began filing criminal complaints in Argentina in 2010. Under the universal justice doctrine, crimes against humanity, including torture and other abuses, do not have a statute of limitations.

The families decided to go to Argentina because of its recent successes in handing down prison terms to the former officers and leaders of the military dictatorship, which ruled the country from 1976 to 1983. In 2006, then-President Néstor Kirchner revoked the amnesties that were granted to the military by President Carlos Menem in the 1990s. Since then, more than 300 people have been found guilty of crimes against humanity.

The change in policy in Argentina was the result of growing pressure put on the government by Spanish High Court Judge Baltasar Garzón, who used the universal justice doctrine to prosecute several Argentinean officers during the 1990s.

In the past three years, thousands of testimonies have been collected by Servini and more are expected to come after the Argentinean government’s initiative to allow consulates around the world to accept complaints.

Servini had planned to travel to Spain last year to hear testimony from victims and their families, but had to postpone the trip because of a lack of resources, according to lawyers who have been filing cases for their clients.

In May, Servini planned to take testimony from victims through video conference with cameras set up at the Argentinean consulate in Madrid but that exercise was canceled at the last minute when Spanish Foreign Ministry officials warned Argentinean Ambassador Carlos Bettini that his country could be violating a bilateral judicial treaty between both countries.

According to Argentinean legal experts, Spain has only two options in this case. Authorities can detain the men and extradite them to Argentina or open their own investigation into the torture allegations, as the bilateral treaty states.

Officials in Servini’s court said that there is only one case that remains open in Spain regarding crimes committed during the Franco period, and that is in Barcelona for a 1938 bombing during the Civil War.

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