Argentine Arrested In Brazil For 1970s Massacre

A former Argentine army major accused of crimes against humanity during the country's 1976-1983 military dictatorship was arrested in Brazil on Wednesday, Interpol said.

Norberto Raul Tozzo, 63, is accused of commanding a group of soldiers that murdered 22 incarcerated political activists opposed to the military government, Interpol said in a statement. The incident became known as the massacre of Margarita Belen.

Tozzo was caught in a hotel in Rio de Janeiro after Argentine police gave Interpol in Brazil information about his possible whereabouts, the police organization said. Tozzo had been a fugitive since April 2005, when an Argentine judge ordered his arrest.

"He checked in under a false name, but had no documents," a Brazilian Interpol officer who was involved with the arrest told Reuters, asking to remain anonymous. "On being captured, he didn't say anything, he just stayed totally silent."

On December 13, 1976, the activists were taken from prison in the town of Resistencia aboard military trucks and shot dead. Only seven of the 22 bodies were returned to their families.

Nine other former soldiers accused of involvement with the killings await trial.

Interpol said Tozzo was taken to Rio's Ary Franco prison pending a decision by Brazil's Supreme Federal Court over his extradition to Argentina, but the Interpol officer did not know how long the process could take.

"There are trials which last three months, others three years," he said. "But he showed a willingness to be extradited, and that could speed the process up."

[Source: Reuters, Sao Paolo, Bra, 17Sep08]

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