Friday, May 20, 2022

ARGENTINA | 10-04-2019 09:40

Death flight pilot claims Spanish military were present at the ESMA torture centre in BA

Adolfo Scilingo was spotted in May on the streets of Madrid despite being subject to 1,084 years of prison for human rights crimes.

A former Navy pilot convicted of participating in the infamous death flights of Argentina’s 1976-83 military dictatorship claims at least three Spanish military officers were present at the Navy Mechanics School (ESMA) in Buenos Aires at the height of its operations as a torture centre.

Adolfo Scilingo, who is currently under transitory arrest in Spain for human rights abuses, made the revelations in an interview published Tuesday on the Spanish portal Vozpopuli.

There were “Spaniards at the ESMA, of course. A group of three people came. One was the group’s chief of operations and two more people, one of whom was very talkative. He called himself  ‘el gallego’ (the Galician)”, the former Navy officer said. Scilingo alleged one of the men "presented himself as a member of the Spanish Navy and a special envoy of the King (of Spain) to collaborate in the fight against subversion" in Argentina.

Scilingo, 72, gained infamy in Argentina after confessing in 1996 to participating as a pilot in the so-called death flights. Most recently, in May, he was spotted on the streets of Madrid despite being subject to 1,084 years of prison for human rights crimes.

“Journalistic reports suggest the (Spanish) judge Baltasar Garzón refused to investigate Spanish military officers who were trained by the military dictatorship who participated directly (in human rights abuses) and were later part of the GAL (a Spanish anti-terrorist para-police group)”, Scilingo said, claiming that successive Argentine governments had kept a full list of people who were disappeared during the 1976-1983 dictatorship by Armed Forces and Police death squads.

“Why isn’t there pressure on the Argentine government to release the list? Go and ask President (Mauricio) Macri to release the list. Do you know that a Navy Chief was subject to a false accusation because he wanted to go public with what the Argentine government knows (about dictatorship-era crimes)”, Scilingo claimed.

The former Navy official also claimed he met former president Raúl Alfonsin in 1984 during “a private meeting” and asked the then head of state about the supposed lists.

Alfonsín allegedly told Scilingo in 1984, just months before the famous Trial of the Juntas against top Armed Forces officials: "We have not received all of the lists. The Army does not have clear lists and the Air Force claims it practically did not participate. If I publish what the Navy has, everyone will turn against the Navy’”.


A local newspaper journalist photographed Scilingo in Madrid in May, prompting outrage in Argentina given his participation in 30 disappearance.

In Tuesday's interview, Scilingo decried being “sentenced for 30 murders of whom I don’t even know the identities”.

Scilingo currently enjoys a transitory prison arrangement that allows him to spend time in the village of Soto Real when he is not in his Madrid prison cell.

An historic trial in a Spanish court in 2005 found Scilingo guilty of a number of crimes, most noticeably the piloting of Navy flights which transported the drug bodies of victims of the military’s state-terror operations.

Based on statements he made to journalist Horacio Verbitsky, Scilingo piloted at least two flights —one in June 1977 and another in August 1977 — carrying a total of 30 people whose bodies were thrown into the River Plate.

He was also found to have played an active role in a kidnapping in mid 1977, while the court considered him complicit in at least 255 similar situations linked to the former ESMA torture centre.


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