Spain charges ex-Argentine officer with abuse
From CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman
Cavallo arrives at Mexico City airport in 2003 for extradition to Spain.
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A former Argentine officer has been charged in Spain with human rights abuses during Argentina's military regime in the 1970s and 1980s, according to a court document viewed by CNN.
A Spanish prosecutor argued Wednesday that Ricardo Miguel Cavallo should be sentenced to thousands of years in prison if convicted.
Cavallo, in Spanish custody since 2003 when he was extradited by Mexico, could be tried in the coming months in Madrid, a spokeswoman for Spain's National Court said.
Even if convicted on all the charges, he would serve at most 30 years in Spanish jail -- the maximum permitted -- even when there are extremely long sentences, the spokeswoman said.
A Spanish court order in 1999 against Cavallo, now in his mid-50s, described him as an Argentine navy lieutenant who worked in the late 1970s at the Navy Mechanics School in Buenos Aires. Human rights groups have since identified the facility as a prime detention and torture center under the former regime, which sought to neutralize its leftist opponents.
Cavallo's case is part of the Spanish court's years-long investigation into human rights abuses under Argentine military governments.
It is also another test of the emerging legal principle called "universal justice," in which the Spanish court considers that it has jurisdiction to try cases for human rights crimes committed elsewhere.
On Tuesday, the same court agreed to investigate charges of genocide by seven former Chinese officials against Tibet, including former Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
Although the court has sought to bring dozens of former Argentine officers to Spain to face justice, Cavallo is among a small number who are actually in Spanish custody.
Last April, the court convicted former Argentine naval officer Adolfo Scilingo, 58, of crimes against humanity, terrorism and torture under the former Argentine military government and sentenced him to 640 years in prison.
Human rights organizations hailed the Scilingo verdict as a triumph for "universal justice," in which Spain, for the first time, tried and convicted a defendant for crimes against humanity committed in another nation.
Scilingo voluntarily traveled to Spain, offering to cooperate in the investigation. But he was charged and later convicted.
By contrast, investigators searched for and eventually found Cavallo in Cancun, Mexico, where he was arrested. For three years, he avoided extradition to Spain, which finally occurred in June 2003.
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.
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