"Dirty War" suspect to stand trial over murdered Italians

A man suspected of kidnapping, torturing and murdering opposition activistsin South America in the 1970s and early 1980s has been arrested in Italy andfaces a landmark prosecution there.

Nestor Jorge Fernández Troccoli, a former naval intelligence officerin Uruguay, is believed to have been involved in Operation Condor, thecovert operation by several military dictatorships to eliminate dissidents.

The Italian authorities have issued another 139 arrest warrants for seniorpolitical leaders and officers considered responsible for the deaths ofan estimated tens of thousands of "Desaparecidos" -- the disappeared. Manyhad dual South American and Italian nationality and the Italian authoritieswill request their extradition so they can stand trial in Italy.

Under Italian law, magistrates can investigate the killings of Italian citizensoverseas, and this is the first time that the Italian authorities have goneafter those blamed for South America's "Dirty War".

Mr Troccoli, 60, of Montevideo, is believed by Italian investigators tohave been an operative of Fusna, the Uruguayan naval intelligence service. Hehad been living in Salerno, southern Italy, for several years. He was arrestedon Christmas Eve and will be transferred to a prison in Rome after the holiday.A warrant for his arrest was also issued by Uruguay after he failed to appearin court on similar charges in Montevideo.

The investigation leading to the issue of the Italian arrest orders originatedwith evidence from relatives of Italian nationals who were among the"Desaparecidos". The 140 warrants include orders for the arrest of the formerArgentine dictator General Jorge Rafaél Videla; Emilio Eduardo Massera, theformer chief of the Argentine Navy; and Jorge María Bordaberry, who led amilitary dictatorship in Uruguay in 1973-76.

According to the court's reconstruction of events, Mr Troccoli was oftenpresent at the Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada in Argentina, wheremany hundreds of political opponents were detained, tortured and killed. Thespecific charges against him are multiple homicide and kidnapping regardingfour members of an Uruguayan anti-government group.

The disappeared

50,000 estimated deaths across Latin America resulting from Operation Condor

7 The number of South American dictatorships — Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil,Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia and, briefly, Peru — in the Condor programme, whichcarried out the secret, illegal, arrest, torture and execution of politicalopponents.

8,000 people in Paraguay believed to have been arrested, tortured and murderedby the end of the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner in 1989

[Source: The Times, London, UK, 26Dec07]

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