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French court backs extradition of alleged Argentine torturer

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Mario Alfredo Sandoval

France’s appeal court has ruled in favour of the extradition of an alleged torturer during the 1970s dictatorship in Argentina. But the court only accepted one of several cases against 61-year-old former police officer Mario Alfredo Sandoval.


The court in Paris accepted Argentina’s request for Sandoval’s extradition over the case of Herman Abriata, an architecture student who disappeared in October 1976, never to be seen again.

Abriata is believed to have been among about 5,000 suspected left-wing activists who were taken to a notorious torture centre in a naval mechanics school in Buenos Aires to be interrogated and killed, often being thrown out of airplanes into the Rio Plata.

But the court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to justify extradition for several other charges against Sandoval, meaning that, if he is finally taken to Argentina, he can only be tried for the one case, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years’ jail.

Sandoval, who claims that he is the victim of mistaken identity, has five days to appeal.

The court’s decision is only advisory and the extradition can only be finally authorised by a decree by Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who may appeal himself if he wishes.

Sandoval acquired French nationality after coming to France in the 1980s, following the fall of the military junta and became an intelligence consultant.

About 30,000 people died under military rule in Argentina.