Argentine 'Dirty War' suspect goes on trial
Fri, 14 Jan 2005
MADRID - A former navy officer who said he pushed dissidents out of planes during Argentina's "Dirty War" went on trial on Friday, becoming the first person to be tried in Spain for crimes against humanity in another country.
Adolfo Scilingo, 58, an Argentine who has been on a hunger strike since mid-December to protest against his trial, seemed dizzy and incoherent as he appeared in Madrid's National Court on charges of torture, genocide and terrorism.
Scilingo went to Spain voluntarily in 1997 to testify before Judge Baltasar Garzon, who has been leading an investigation into human-rights violations by military regimes in Argentina and Chile.
Scilingo, who did not have a grant of immunity, told Garzon that he threw 30 drugged, naked dissidents from planes into the Atlantic in the notorious "death flights" during the 1970s.
He was jailed, but then recanted his testimony. His lawyers say he was pressured to lie under oath to implicate other figures in the military government's crackdown on suspected leftists.
He has been refusing solid food since mid-December, arguing that he's the only person facing charges from the Dirty War that killed as many as 30,000 people from 1976 to 1983.
With the case, Spain joins the growing number of countries that have decided to let their courts judge human-rights crimes elsewhere, regardless of the nationality of the accused.
The Netherlands, Belgium and other European countries have tried people for crimes like genocide in places such as the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
Scilingo's trial is expected to end in mid-February.
Another Argentine suspect, Ricardo Miguel Cavallo, was extradited from Mexico to Spain in 2003 and is also awaiting trial for human-rights abuses.