Release of 'Blond Angel of Death' is suspended

Argentinean legal authorities cancelled the controversial release of Alfredo Astiz, known as the "Blond Angel of Death," only hours after the government appealed against the court decision to free him.


AFP - Argentine legal authorities suspended a decision to release Alfredo Astiz, known as the "Blond Angel of Death" for a series of murders during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, a day after a court ordered him freed, the official news agency Telam reported Friday.

The announcement came barely two hours after the government said it would appeal the controversial decision to release Astiz -- accused of involvement in the disappearance of two French nuns, a Swedish adolescent and scores of political dissidents during the dictatorship's fight against leftist insurgents.

Astiz and other former military officers are scheduled for a hearing, but a court on Thursday ordered him released, along with another accused jailer and torturer, Jorge Acosta alias "The Tiger," on the grounds they had been detained for two years without being formally charged.

Thursday's court decision sparked outrage inside and outside Argentina.

An extraordinary appeal would be filed before the country's Supreme Court "against the decision," Human Rights Secretary Eduardo Duhalde told a news conference Friday.

"If we can't guarantee that they are tried (in Argentina) and that they don't flee, the international community will act, without doubt, Duhalde added.

Astiz, a former navy captain, worked at Buenos Aires' Navy Mechanics School, an infamous center for torture and abuse, where some 5,000 people were taken and only a few hundred survived.

The 57-year-old has already been sentenced to life in prison in Italy, in 2007, and France, in 1990, for the murder of three Italians and the two French nuns respectively.

"His release -- before his judgement in Argentina -- would be shocking," said Eric Chevallier, a spokesman for the French foreign ministry in Paris Friday.

"France has sent various extradition requests to Argentina, the last of which is being examined by Argentine authorities," Chevallier added.

Duhalde said Argentine authorities would Monday seek to use other accusations against the two men to support their bid to keep them detained, and would also seek to denounce the judges who ordered them free.

Parliament should "dictate the judicial procedures necessary to avoid these kind of things from happening," said Carlos Fayt, a Supreme Court judge, in comments on television Friday.

"This measure shames Argentina and all of humanity," an outraged President Cristina Kirchner said Thursday after the court decision.

"I don't think I'm breaking the law when I say that the justice system will revoke (the release order) for the sake of Argentina's dignity," Kirchner said at the Memory Museum dedicated to the victims of the dictatorship, located inside the premises of the former Navy Mechanics School.


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