franco crimes

Ex-Civil Guard officer fights extradition to Argentina to face torture charges

Jesús Muñecas is accused of beating a man at a Gipuzkoa prison in 1968

Former Civil Guard Captain Jesús Muñecas Aguilar appears before the High Court on Thursday.
Former Civil Guard Captain Jesús Muñecas Aguilar appears before the High Court on Thursday.Ballesteros / EFE

A former Civil Guard captain who is wanted in Argentina for crimes committed during the regime of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco told a Spanish court on Thursday that he will fight the extradition proceedings against him.

Jesús Muñecas, 77, appeared before the High Court with his lawyer to answer a request by an Argentinean judge that he be sent to Buenos Aires to face charges that he tortured and beat a suspect, Andoni Arrizabalaga, at a prison in Zarautz, Gipuzkoa in August 1968.

“I don’t agree to being extradited,” Muñecas told Judge Alfonso Guevara, who was presiding over a judges’ panel that is dealing with the Argentinean petition.

Muñecas served five years in prison for his participation in the attempted coup on February 23, 1981

“I never knew that man…,” the defendant said in reference to Arrizabalaga at the end of the hearing, before he was cut off by the judge.

Buenos Aires Judge María Servini last year issued international arrest warrants against Muñecas and three other former officials who served under Franco – two of whom have died – as part of her inquiry into crimes committed during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the subsequent dictatorship (1939-1975).

Servini opened her inquiry based on the universal justice doctrine after Spanish victims and their loved ones decided to seek justice in Argentina after courts in Spain ignored and rejected their complaints.

Another suspect, former police inspector Juan Antonio González Pacheco, alias Billy the Kid, is facing 13 charges of torture in Argentina. The 67-year-old González Pacheco is also fighting extradition to Buenos Aires. Both men had been ordered to turn over their passports and not leave Spain.

At Thursday’s hearing, High Court prosecutor Pedro Martínez Torrijos also opposed sending Muñecas to Argentina, saying that the statute of limitations has run out on the charges he is facing. Yet, the prosecutor said that if Muñecas should be put on trial for any crimes committed it should be within the Spanish courts’ jurisdiction.

Muñecas, who served five years in prison for his participation in the attempted coup on February 23, 1981, was in the news recently after it emerged that he had been a guest at a lunch held by the son of the coup leader, former Civil Guard Lt. Col. Antonio Tejero, in the Madrid satellite town of Valdemoro to commemorate the anniversary of the uprising.

Tejero’s son, who is also a Civil Guard member, was replaced as head of the Reserve and Security Group 1 (GRS-1) of the Civil Guard in Madrid after news of the luncheon was published by EL PAÍS.

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