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article imageHuman rights lawyers demand arrest of 4 ex-Franco officials

By Anne Sewell     Sep 23, 2013 in World
Buenos Aires - Victims of torture during the brutal reign of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco are hoping they will finally see justice, as an Argentinian judge has issued arrest warrants for four former Franco officials.
On Wednesday last week, in an unprecedented ruling, Argentinean Judge María Servini de Cubría ordered international arrest warrants for the four Spaniards.
The men are accused of torture and abuses during the later years of the Franco dictatorship, which ran from 1939 until Franco's death in 1975.
The accused are named as follows with brief detail of each man's crimes as reported in El País.
- Former Civil Guard officer Jesús Muñecas Aguilar:
Muñecas, 74, is accused of torturing Andoni Arrizabalada Basterrechea in 1968. “This is what happens to those who don’t want to cooperate,” Muñecas reportedly said at the time, according to a witness who saw a bloody Arrizabalada in the Civil Guard headquarters in Zarautz, Gipuzkoa. The man’s face had been beaten and his arms were covered with bruises, the witness told the court.
- One-time Franco bodyguard Celso Galván Abascal:
Galván, 78, is accused of torturing José María Galante Serrano in 1969 after he was arrested for “subversive activities.” His case was never taken to court. Franco’s former bodyguard is also suspected of torturing Acacio Puig Mediavilla, who was arrested in 1973 and was taken to National Security headquarters, where he was beaten.
- Ex-commissioner José Ignacio Giralte González
Giralte, 72, who lives in the Tres Cantos suburb of Madrid, is also being investigated for the torture of Galante and another man, Alfredo Rodríguez Bonilla. “[Giralte and Jesus González Regiero, another officer] told me to lower my head. Each time I did that, they would beat me,” Rodríguez Bonilla testified. “I was beaten on my back, with the same chains that they put me in when I was arrested. They would also kick me in my crotch.
“Each time they would hit me they would say, ‘Tells us that your mother is a whore and your father is a faggot’,” he recalled.
- Former inspector José Antonio González Pacheco:
Also known as Billy El Niño (or Billy the Kid) - so called because he used to spin a gun on his finger like a cowboy during the interrogation sessions.
González Pacheco, alias “Billy the kid,” is now 66 and also resides in Madrid. He is charged with torturing 13 people, who still remember his coldness when he would dole out sharp blows with his club, and the excuse he gave as to why he was beating them: he didn’t like their faces.
At this stage, Spanish police are awaiting an Interpol order before proceeding with the arrest of the four men.
Ana Messuti, one of the lawyers working on the prosecution of past Franco officials said during a press conference in Madrid:
“The government is obligated to carry out the arrests under international treaties. The government will not be in a good position if it refuses.”
A suit was filed in the Buenos Aires court on April 14, 2010 by around 170 people and several associations representing victims of Franco's torture. At the time they claimed that they had been unable to seek justice in Spain, but now it looks as though justice has a possibility of being served.
One of the torture victims. Maria Rumin, 55, told the media on Monday, "We want everyone to know who these people are and what they did."
Should the four former Franco officials be found guilty in Argentina, they will face sentences of eight to 25 years. However, if not extradited, the men could remain under the protection of Spain's 1977 Historical Memory Law.
This controversial law states that political crimes committed under Franco cannot be prosecuted in Spain.
According to El País, it is unlikely that the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will follow through with the arrests.
Reportedly several months ago, government officials used influence to make sure that a video conference in Madrid, where witnesses were to provide testimony on camera for Judge Servini in Buenos Aires, was cancelled.
However, should the four wanted men try to leave the country, they run the risk of capture by Interpol.
In 2010, high profile Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón (leading the law team in the case of Julian Assange and responsible for indicting former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998), was suspended for initiating investigations into crimes against humanity under Franco. This suspension was seen by many on Spain's left as politically motivated.
Maria Garzón, daughter of the judge, heads a group that wants Spain to set up a Commission for Truth to investigate the alleged Franco atrocities.
“We are talking about between 130,000 and 150,000 disappeared, 30,000 stolen children, approximately 2,269 common graves – only 390 of them open – and this is only what we have details about,” she said.
“It is obvious Spain has not done its homework at all,” she added.
One of the victims, Jesus Rodriquez. said “The vast majority of the torturers are dead, or close to dying.”
“The majority of victims of Franco were never able to speak out; many of them are dead and many are too scared to speak,” he added.
For those wishing to learn more about Franco, Wikipedia has extensive information.
More about Spain, Franco, francisco franco, Dictator, Torture
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