"A pilot for a Dutch airline has been arrested over allegations that he flew hundreds of "death flights" for Argentina's military dictatorship during the country's "Dirty War".
Julio Alberto Poch, 57, a retired Argentine naval pilot, is accused of being involved in the deaths of a thousand victims between 1976 and 1983.
Mr Poch is wanted in Argentina in connection with four criminal investigations into "death flights" in which opponents of the military dictatorship were drugged then dumped from aircraft into the Atlantic Ocean or rivers and drowned.
The flights were a favoured method of the military junta during its violent crackdown against leftwingers and other political opponents.
Mr Poch, a former lieutenant, is said to have worked as a pilot attached to the notorious Naval Mechanics School in Argentina, where prisoners were tortured and murdered.
The pilot, who works for the Dutch airline transavia.com, was detained in front of passengers minutes before his Amsterdam-bound flight was about to take-off from Manises airport in Valencia, eastern Spain, yesterday.
He was detained at the request of the Argentine Government by officers from Spain's elite Fugitive Squad, which tracks down Nazi war criminals and Mafia bosses. Mr Poch holds joint Dutch and Argentine nationality.
Spanish police confirmed through Interpol that Mr Poch had Dutch nationality and worked as a pilot with Transavia, often captaining flights between Schipol airport in Amsterdam and Valencia.
Mr Poch is in custody in Spain but is expected to face extradition proceedings to Argentina later this week.
In 2005, Adolfo Scilingo, 62, a retired Argentine naval officer, was jailed for 640 years by a Spanish court for crimes against humanity, including extra-judicial execution.
He was convicted of 30 counts of murder relating to prisoners being pushed out of jets during the Dirty War.
Transavia, a low-cost airline owned by Air France-KLM, is to review its checks on staff after the arrest of Mr Poch.
Anita Sunter, a Transavia spokesman, said: "We are waiting to be informed of the charges."
According to official government figures, more than 11,000 people died or disappeared between 1976 to 1983.
However, human rights groups have put the number of those who were "disappeared" at closer to 30,000.
In 2005, Argentina's Supreme Court annulled two amnesty laws that had shielded hundreds of former officers from charges of human rights abuses during the dictatorship.
The courts have handed down a number of heavy prison sentences to members of the security forces who have been convicted of kidnapping, torturing and killing dissidents."
"Operation Condor was a 1970s terrorist conspiracy by six U.S.-supported Latin American governments -- Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay -- to murder their political opponents around the world. Known as Operation Condor, "foreign armies and security services cooperated in dealing with political opponents from one country who crossed into another, and assigned their own men to out-of-country operations to avoid the identification of local agents." Lucy Komisar, "Operation Condor and Pinochet", Los Angeles Times, Commentary, November 1, 1998.
According to once secret documents published by the daily La Nacion, Operation Condor was formally established by an act of the I Interamerican Reunion on Military Intelligence, that took place in Chile on November 25, 1975, attended by delegates of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. The act became part of the bais for the genocide, torture and terrorism accusations of Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon against Augusto Pinochet, leading to the general's detention on October 16, 1998. "The coordination among the secret services of Chile, Argentina, Brasil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay meant the death of 200 Chileans detained in the neighboring countries and of thousands throughout Latin America, according to the data discovered by Paraguay in the files that came to be known as the Archives of Terror...According to the information established to date, Operation Condor was created by the DINA, secret police agency of the chilean military regime, thus proving, as stated by human rights organizations, the direct responsibility of general Augusto Pinochet. This coordination of police services had its debut during the so called Colombo Operation in 1974, which was launched to cover up for the murder of 119 opponents in Chile: their corpses were made to appear in Argentina and their deaths were attributed to a supposed confrontation between factions." "Official secret documents from Chile prove the existence of Operation Condor." El Pais, Jueves 17 junio 1999 - N: 1140. Translated by Maria Elena Hope for Nuevo Amanecer Press, General Director, Roger Maldonado
Creation of Operation Condor
* Col. Manuel Contreras, who organized the terror network, had set up the Directorate of National Intelligence (DINA), the Chilean secret police, two months after the September 1973 coup. CIA station chief Stuart Burton, who arrived in Santiago in May 1974, established a close liaison with Contreras and DINA. U.S. Embassy political officer John Tipton, who at the time was cabling protests of human-rights abuses and coauthoring a dissent channel memorandum that called for more U.S. attention to the issue, told me the CIA and DINA were working together. He said, "I don't believe the CIA set up DINA, but they were in a close relationship. Burton and Contreras used to go on Sunday picnics together with their families. That permeated the whole CIA station."
* In August 1975, Contreras had met in Washington with CIA deputy director Vernon A. Walters. Up until then, cooperation between the security services of the Latin American dictators had been informal. There are no declassified documents that prove Walters urged or approved the plan to set up Operation Condor, but the month after meeting with Walters, Contreras asked Pinochet, in a memo obtained by Italian courts, for another $600,000 for "reasons that I consider indispensable," one of which was "the neutralization of the [Chilean] government junta's principal adversaries abroad, especially in Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, the U.S.A. and Italy."
* After Contreras' meeting with the military intelligence chiefs of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay in October, the relationship was formalized and a joint information center was established at DINA headquarters.
* In March 1976, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), and several other members of Congress visited Chile and met with human-rights defenders there. Miller has now called on President Bill Clinton to release "critical information that will help link Pinochet directly to acts of international terrorism."
* Source: Lucy Komisar, "Operation Condor and Pinochet", Los Angeles Times, Commentary, November 1, 1998.
Department of Defense, Directorate of National Intelligence (DINA) Expands Operations and Facilities, April 15, 1975: This heavily excised Intelligence Report from the Defense Attache in Santiago Chile, describes the growth of DINA, the national intelligence arm of the Chilean government and "the sole responsible agency for internal subversive matters." Many of the excised portions provide details about the strained relations between DINA and the Chilean Armed Forces because of DINA's exclusive power. The report states that the head of DINA, Colonel Manuel Contreras, "has reported exclusively to, and received orders only from, President Pinochet." Source: Peter Kornbluh, National Security Archive, CHILE: DECLASSIFIED U.S. DOCUMENTS ON PINOCHET AND THE 1973 COUP
1973: U. S. Embassy Participation in Operation Condor
The Chilean government's Truth and Reconciliation Commission says U.S. Embassy personnel were involved in the capture of a Chilean by Paraguayan police. In the 1991 report, it said that Chilean Jorge Isaac Fuentes Alarcon was arrested by the Paraguayan police crossing the border to Argentina in May 1975, and that the participants in his capture were "the Argentine intelligence services, who provided the information about his false passport; persons from the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires, who informed the Chilean Investigative Police of the result of the interrogations, and the Paraguayan police, who permitted the clandestine transport of the detainee." ... Fuentes Alarcon was brought to a Chilean torture center, Villa Grimaldi, in Santiago. He never left. Lucy Komisar, "Operation Condor and Pinochet", Los Angeles Times, Commentary, November 1, 1998.
1976: The FBI Learns of Operation Condor
A week after the killings of Orlando Letelier, former Chilean foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S., and his Instiute for Policy Studies colleague Ronni Moffitt in Washington in 1976, Robert Scherrer, the FBI's attache in Buenos Aires assigned to the case, reported key information to Washington. Scherrer had learned from an Argentine official that Chile was the center of something called Operation Condor, established to share intelligence and engage in joint operations against "so-called 'leftists,' communists and Marxists," he wrote in a recently release document. He said the operation included setting up teams to carry out assassinations around the world and speculated it might have orchestrated the Washington bombing. Scherrer learned that the CIA had already reported on Operation Condor. Lucy Komisar, "Operation Condor and Pinochet", Los Angeles Times, Commentary, November 1, 1998.
FBI, Operation Condor Cable, September 28, 1976: This cable, written by the FBI's attache in Buenos Aires, Robert Scherrer, summarizes intelligence information provided by a "confidential source abroad" about Operation Condor, a South American joint intelligence operation designed to "eliminate Marxist terrorist activities in the area." The cable reports that Chile is the center of Operation Condor, and provides information about "special teams" which travel "anywhere in the world... to carry out sanctions up to assassination against terrorists or supporters of terrorist organizations." Several sections relating to these special teams have been excised. The cable suggests that the assassination of the Chilean Ambassador to the United States, Orlando Letelier, may have been carried out as an action of Operation Condor. Source: Peter Kornbluh, National Security Archive, CHILE: DECLASSIFIED U.S. DOCUMENTS ON PINOCHET AND THE 1973 COUP
1993: Paraguayan archives of terror reveal Nazi and drug trafficking connection with Operation Condor
A Paraguayan, Federico Tatter, who had fled to Argentina in 1963 out of opposition to the Gen. Alfredo Stroessner's dictatorship, was kidnapped in Buenos Aires in 1976. Years later, his widow got photographs from Paraguayan human-rights groups that showed her husband in the company of Paraguayan police. The photos were in records opened in 1993, after an ex-political prisoner, acting on a tip, took a judge to a police station to get his own files. They discovered a huge cache of documents, now known as the "archives of terror." ... The papers revealed that the terror network murdered a former president of Brazil and two Uruguayan parliamentarians, as well as hundreds of political activists. They also documented the presence of Nazis throughout the southern cone and the assassination of Israeli agents who were pursuing them. Finally, they detailed the connection of local intelligence services with drug traffickers and with the CIA... Argentine journalist Stella Calloni, correspondent for the Mexican daily La Jornada in Mexico, reported that after the U.S. Agency for International Development arrived to help microfilm the Paraguayan files, some of which detailed U.S. connections with the Paraguayan police, journalists who sought to look at the archives discovered that the military-related material about Operation Condor had been put out of their reach. Lucy Komisar, "Operation Condor and Pinochet", Los Angeles Times, Commentary, November 1, 1998.
1998: The Pinochet Investigation
"The Central Intelligence Agency and some U.S. government officials knew about this 1970s operation, but didn't reveal it to the public or Congress... Now, Spanish authorities handling the Pinochet investigation want to know what the United States knows about Operation Condor, and Washington has been sending them declassified documents. But it has balked at requests to release all relevant papers in the archives of the State Department, the Pentagon, the FBI and the CIA. The U.S. government denied a report in the Guardian newspaper in London that it had urged the British to release Pinochet and not agree to his extradition to Madrid for fear that revelations about the U.S. role in the 1973 coup overthrowing Salvador Allende would come out during a trial. But, since the current investigation concerns the post-coup period, some U.S. officials are more likely worried about revelations of U.S. knowledge of and connections to Operation Condor. Lucy Komisar, "Operation Condor and Pinochet", Los Angeles Times, Commentary, November 1, 1998.
1976: The Letelier - Moffatt Killings
1998: the Spaniards are seeking a CIA report said to assert that Pinochet ordered the 1976 car-bomb assassination in Washington of Letelier and Moffitt. ... The CIA immediately connected the Letelier-Moffitt killings to Operation Condor. After the assassinations, the agency decided the network had become a rogue operation that could create problems in the United States. When it found out about Condor plans in Europe, it advised police in France and Portugal, where assassinations were planned. Lucy Komisar, "Operation Condor and Pinochet", Los Angeles Times, Commentary, November 1, 1998.
* Operation Condor. Through Freedom of Information Act requests, and other avenues of declassification, the National Security Archive has been able to compile a collection of declassified records that shed light on events in Chile between 1970 and 1976. These include FBI documents on Operation Condor -- the state-sponsored terrorism of the Chilean secret police, DINA. The documents, including summaries of prison letters written by DINA agent Michael Townley, provide evidence on the carbombing assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt in Washington D.C., and the murder of Chilean General Carlos Prats and his wife in Buenos Aires, among other operations. Peter Kornbluh, National Security Archive, CHILE: DECLASSIFIED U.S. DOCUMENTS ON PINOCHET AND THE 1973 COUP
Other Operation Condor Killings
* It is widely believed that Operation Condor already had carried out the 1974 Buenos Aires killing of Pinochet's predecessor, the democrat Gen. Carlos Prats and his wife, and the 1975 Rome attack that disabled Christian Democratic opposition leader Bernardo Leighton and his wife. Those cases are being investigated by judicial authorities in Argentina and Italy, who might like to see U.S. archives. Lucy Komisar, "Operation Condor and Pinochet", Los Angeles Times, Commentary, November 1, 1998.
* After 1976 Operation Condor stayed in business elsewhere. The Chilean and Argentine military helped Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza in the years before his 1979 overthrow. Through the network, Argentina helped organize death squads in El Salvador in 1979 and '80. Operation Condor is believed to have operated until 1983. Evidence of Argentine participation was exposed during state prosecution of the military junta by the government of President Raul Alfonsin.
* Source: Lucy Komisar, "Operation Condor and Pinochet", Los Angeles Times, Commentary, November 1, 1998. Lucy Komisar Is Working on a Book About U.S. Human-rights Policy in the 1970s and '80s, Including a Detailed Case Study of Chile."
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