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Cavallo jailed pending trial

From CNN Bureau Chief Al Goodman

Cavallo
Cavallo has claimed innocence in the past.

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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A Spanish judge Sunday ordered accused Argentine war criminal Ricardo Miguel Cavallo jailed pending his upcoming trial on charges of genocide and terrorism, court officials said.

Manuel Olle, a private lawyer representing Cavallo's alleged victims, told reporters outside the courthouse that Cavallo is accused of responsibility for the disappearances of 227 people, the kidnap, torture and release of 110 other people and the kidnap of 16 women whose newborn babies were then delivered to other people to raise.

Jaime Sanz, another lawyer for the alleged victims, told reporters that Cavallo refused to enter a plea of innocent and said little to the judge during the closed-door hearing, but has claimed innocence in the past.

Cavallo was extradited from Mexico Saturday and arrived Sunday morning in Madrid aboard a Spanish air force jet. He was whisked into court where, during a five-minute hearing, he refused to sign any documents or testify, according to attorneys present in the court.

During the hearing, he stared intently at Judge Baltasar Garzon, who returned the gaze without comment, one court observer said.

Garzon then remanded him back to his cell in Soto del Real prison, north of the capital, with 200 pages of court orders to read.

A private attorney who is representing him did not talk to reporters. No date has been set for his next court appearance or the trial.

Cavallo is the first of dozens of officials of the former Argentine military junta sought by Spain to be extradited from any Latin American country, a court official told CNN.

The group Human Rights Watch said Spain is applying the principle of "universal jurisdiction" in international law, which makes atrocities committed in one country subject to criminal prosecution by courts in another country.

Cavallo was arrested in Cancun, Mexico, almost three years ago and had fought extradition in Mexican courts. Mexico's Supreme Court decided June 10 to uphold the extradition request.

A court official said the 51-year-old, who is married and has two or three children, faces several charges of human rights abuses under Argentina's military government during the 1970s and 1980s, each of which could result in a sentence of 20 to 30 years in prison.

The Spanish court official, who requested anonymity, said that a Spanish court's order seeking the extradition of 48 other officials from the former junta was rejected by Argentina. But investigations were opened into 18 others, some of whom have been indicted or jailed, the official said.

Human Rights Watch, citing a November 1999 indictment issued by Garzón, described Cavallo as a Navy lieutenant working in the Navy Mechanics School in Buenos Aires during the military regime. Between January 1977 and October 1978, Cavallo belonged to the operations sector of Working Group 3.3.2, a group involved in kidnapping and torturing persons perceived as leftist by the military, the group said.

The Argentine truth commission's 1984 report named 8,961 people who "disappeared" under the military rule. Although some high-level officials were criminally prosecuted in Argentina in the 1980s for these abuses, the country's amnesty laws protected most of the military.

Those who were convicted were pardoned by then-President Carlos Menem in 1989 and 1990.

The Mexican Supreme Court authorized Cavallo's extradition on charges of genocide and terrorism, but not on charges of torture, Human Rights Watch said. A lower court ruled that, under Mexican law, the statute of limitations for a torture prosecution would have expired.

"In a region where far too many human rights violators have escaped justice, Mexico is setting an important example that other countries should emulate," said José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the group's Americas Division.

Garzon has for years led the investigation into former officers of the Argentine and Chilean dictatorships during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1998, he ordered former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet arrested while he was in London for back surgery.

That led to a legal battle which ended in 2000, when Pinochet was sent back to Chile after his lawyers persuaded a court that their client was unfit to stand trial.


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