Italy’s government has confirmed the extradition of an Argentine chaplain facing allegations related to torture, kidnapping and murder dating back to the South American country’s brutal 1976-1983 military dictatorship.
Ex-chaplain Franco Reverberi Boschi is accused of taking part in torture sessions and kidnapping at the ‘La Departamental’ clandestine detention centre in San Rafael, Mendoza Province in 1976. Various witnesses stated that he was part of a group dedicated to torture and kidnapping at the camp. Among the charges he faces are accessory to murder.
Italy’s Justice Minister Carlo Nordio approved the extradition order. The request was initially rejected as Italian criminal law did not include the crime of torture, which was only incorporated in 2015.
Reverberi Boschi, who also holds Italian nationality, fled Argentina in 2011, travelling on an Aerolíneas Argentinas flight to Rome to avoid trial. Proceedings against him for crimes against humanity had started in Mendoza in 2010, with five victims detailing torture they had received at La Departamental, though he was not formally summoned by the courts until August 10.
All the witnesses testified that a priest, the accused, had been present during torture sessions. One, Roberto Flores, said that the accused had done so with a copy of The Bible in his hands. Another, Ángel Di Cesare, alleged that on occasion Reverberi Boschi had even donned a military uniform and that he would even bless the instruments used for torture detainees.
One of the most impactful testimonies was delivered by Mario Bracamonte, who described a beating he had received one afternoon in the presence of the then-chaplain. He went to reveal that he had been forced to clean the floor in below-freezing temperatures by crawling on the floor and mopping up dirt with his clothes.
To date, 10 witnesses have given evidence claiming that they were tortured in the presence of the priest of Italian descent.
Formally, the Italo-Argentine stands accused of participating in the kidnapping, torture and homicide of Peronist militant José Berón, who was disappeared in late 1876.
Extradition proceedings against the former chaplain were initiated in 2013. On July 10 this year, the Bologna Court of Appeals accepted the claim and request. The state endorsed extradition this past Wednesday.
“Now we must finalise the transfer from Italy to Argentina, for which in principle we have up to 45 days," Human Rights Secretary Horacio Pietragalla Corti told Perfil, commenting on the extradition request.
“This is important because 20 years after the trials were reopened it’s a very clear sign that it’s still a very important State policy in Argentina and indeed, from the Secretariat, we are actively involved in the search for those who, protected by their dual citizenship, seek impunity in other countries," added the official.
Reverberi Boschi’s defence team intends to appeal his extradition, a process legal experts say could take up to three months to be resolved.
– TIMES/PERFIL [with reporting by Gabriel Irungaray]