Spain ex-policeman fights extradition on 'torture' claim

MADRID - A Spanish ex-policeman Thursday fought against extradition to Argentina where a judge wants to try him for alleged torture decades ago during the Franco dictatorship in Spain, a judicial source said.

A federal judge in Argentina has issued an international arrest warrant for Jesus Munecas Aguilar, 75, under a principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows courts to judge certain cases of human rights abuses committed in other countries.

Dozens of angry supporters of alleged victims of Franco-era abuses demonstrated nearby as Munecas arrived for the hearing at the National Court in Madrid which must rule on the extradition request.

The former Civil Guard captain Munecas told judge Alfonso Guevara during the hearing that he opposed the extradition request and argued that he had "no links to Argentina", a court source told AFP.

Spanish state prosecutors have also challenged the extradition bid - a sensitive affair in Spain where the wounds of the 1936-1939 civil war and ensuing dictatorship of Francisco Franco are still raw.

State prosecutor Pedro Martinez said that if Argentina wants to prosecute the suspects it should do so in the Spanish courts.

Munecas is unlikely to be tried in Spain however because of a 1977 amnesty that was adopted to unify the country after Franco's death in 1975.

The charges lodged in Argentina allege that Munecas and another policeman tortured prisoners in the late years of Franco's rule.

In Thursday's hearing Munecas's lawyer denied his client took part in torture and Munecas spoke up to tell the judge he did not know the alleged victim, the judicial source said.

The demonstrators near the court were pessimistic.

"We are sure he will not be extradited," said one, Felisa Echegoyen, 66.

She says she was a victim of the other Spanish ex-policeman targeted by the extradition warrant, Juan Antonio Gonzalez Pacheco.

Gonzalez, alias "Billy the Kid", 67, has been summoned for an extradition hearing on April 10.