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Spain rejects Argentina's request to extradite Franco-era officials

Spanish authorities have rejected an extradition request filed by Judge María Servini de Cubría against 20 former Franco-era officials accused of human rights violations.

The Justice Ministry cited the expiration of the statute of limitations and also said its decision was based on the principle of preferential jurisdiction in which the state may refuse to extradite if it is able to carry out its own prosecution.

Other reasons given by Spanish Justice Minister Rafael Catalá suggest that prosecution of the former Franco-era officials was not in the cards.

Catalá also cited the principle of dual criminality when it made the announcement following the weekly Cabinet meeting and that some of acts committed during the Franco-era were not considered crimes by the Criminal Code in effect at the time. As an example, Catalá noted that ordering capital punishment was "not a crime" in Franco's era.

Disputing the very premise of Servini de Cubría's request the Spanish government also indicated that the any crimes committed by those accused would be subject to the statute of limitations, which would have expired 15 years after the events dating back to the 1970s.

Franco-era officials cannot be prosecuted in Spain due to an amnesty enacted in 1977 after the restoration of democracy.

The accusations

Among those named in Servini de Cubría's request were former ministers Rodolfo Martín Villa and José Utrera Molina, who is the father-in-law of Mariano Rajoy's former Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardón.

Servini de Cubría accused Martín Villa of ordering the repression of a workers' protest in Vitoria in March 1976. Five workers were killed and 100 demonstrators were injured as a result.

Former minister Utrera Molina was singled out for executing an activist using the cruel garrotte method. Salvador Puig Antich was the last person to be executed with this method in March, 1974.

The judge also called for the arrest of former Labour Minister and vice-president Licinio de la Fuente and came amid a lack of progress and were justified on the grounds their crimes constitute crimes against humanity and thus not subject to the statute of limitations.

Servini de Cubría also invoked the universal jurisdiction principle, which implies that in the absence of a judicial investigation in the country where such crimes were perpetrated, any judge in the world can claim that it is within his or her jurisdiction to launch an investigation.

[Source: By Herald staff with Reuters, Buenos Aires Herald, Bs As, 14Mar15]

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