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ARGENTINA | 13-05-2020 15:17

Government asks Brazil to extradite suspect accused of ESMA crimes

Gonzalo Sánchez, who was arrested in Rio de Janeiro last week, is wanted for a raft of crimes committed during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, including the murders of Rodolfo Walsh and Dagmar Hagelin.

Argentina has asked Brazil to extradite Gonzalo Sánchez, the former naval officer implicated in dictatorship-era crimes following his arrest in Rio de Janeiro, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

Sánchez, who was arrested in Rio last week, is wanted for a raft of crimes committed during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, including the murders of famed journalist and writer Rodolfo Walsh and a young Swedish-Argentine woman, Dagmar Hagelin.

"The Foreign Ministry notified our Embassy in Brasilia that it considers Gonzalo Sánchez a fugitive in judicial investigations into crimes committed within the scope of the Navy Mechanics School (ESMA)," a statement said.

The 69-year-old, who was also known as "Chispa," faces a string of charges. He is suspected of forming part of a group that participated in kidnappings, torture and murder during the campaign of state terrorism. Human rights groups estimate some 30,000 were "disappeared" during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

The fugitive served as a naval police officer in the notorious ex-ESMA Naval Mechanics School, a feared torture centre under the dictatorship.

Only a fraction of the estimated 5,000 opponents of the regime taken there survived.  

The bodies of Walsh and Hagelin, who was kidnapped in 1977 when she was aged just 17, have never been found. 

During the dictatorship, ESMA commanders ordered "death flights" in which prisoners were thrown alive into the Río de la Plata.

A previous attempt by prosecutors to extradite Sánchez in 2017 failed.

More than a thousand members of the military regime have been convicted of crimes against humanity since 2003.

– TIMES/AFP

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