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Sources: Spain to extradite suspect Argentine officer

  • Story Highlights
  • Sources: Ricardo Miguel Cavallo accused of human rights abuses
  • He will likely be extradited to Argentina within days, sources say
  • He is expected to face trial concerning his involvement in Argentina's "dirty war"
  • Cavallo has said he is not guilty
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From Al Goodman
CNN Madrid Bureau Chief
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Guards took former Argentine officer Ricardo Miguel Cavallo from a Spanish prison Sunday because he will likely be extradited to Argentina to face charges of human rights abuses Monday, sources told CNN.

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Argentine ex-naval officer Ricardo Cavallo behind bars in Mexico City, Mexico, in 2000.

Spain's National Court two weeks ago authorized the extradition of Cavallo, who is suspected of involvement in Argentina's "dirty war" under military juntas more than two decades ago.

A court spokeswoman said it was a matter of days before Interpol could arrange security and a flight from Spain to Argentina.

Cavallo left the Alcala-Meco prison, just east of Madrid, Sunday afternoon under guard, a Spanish prison authority source told CNN. A police source said it appeared he would go to Argentina Monday.

Cavallo has said he's not guilty.

His Spanish lawyer, Fernando Pamos de la Hoz, said Sunday he had received a call from a relative of another inmate at the Alcala-Meco prison, advising him that Cavallo had been taken out of the facility.

Pamos de la Hoz said he did not know whether his client was already en route to Buenos Aires, Argentina, adding that he had not received word from officials about his client.

Cavallo, 56, has sought to return to Argentina, arguing that Spain has no jurisdiction in his case, Pamos de la Hoz said.

Cavallo, who has been in Spanish custody since 2003, is among dozens of former Argentine officers who have been targeted by the Spanish court's years-long investigation into rights abuses in Argentina during the former military government.

Cavallo was among a small number who are in Spanish custody.

Cavallo was a navy lieutenant at the Navy Mechanics School in Buenos Aires, where many opponents of the Argentine right-wing military governments in the 1970s and 1980s disappeared or were killed, according to Spanish court documents and human rights groups.

"Of the 30,000 people who disappeared during the military dictatorship, some 5,000 of them were detained, at least for a time, at the Navy Mechanics School," according to a court document filed by the prosecution.

Cavallo was "fully integrated into the development of the plan of repression and extermination," the document says.

Human rights groups have identified the Navy Mechanics School as a prime detention and torture center under the former regime, which sought to neutralize its leftist opponents.

Spain has applied a legal principle called "universal justice," in which the court claims jurisdiction to try cases of human rights abuses committed elsewhere.

But in recent years, Argentina has opened its own judicial proceedings into the alleged abuses, and since at least late 2006, Spain has been trying to extradite Cavallo to Argentina to face justice there.

The Spanish government approved the extradition of Cavallo earlier this year, and that was followed by the National Court ruling two weeks ago.

Still, lawyers for victims of human rights abuses in Argentina last week in Madrid announced at a news conference that they would fight to stop the extradition. One of the lawyers, Carlos Slepoy, said Cavallo would get a fairer, more serious and quicker trial in Spain than in Argentina. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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