France is preparing to deport an Argentine former policeman, Mario Sandoval, accused of torture and crimes against humanity during Argentina’s military dictatorship in 1976-1983.
Argentine prosecutors based their extradition request on one case – that of student Hernán Abriata, who disappeared in detention in 1976.
Mr Sandoval, 66, denies the charges, but a top French court has given a final ruling, rejecting his appeal.
He is accused in some 500 cases.
Those cases relate to murder, torture and kidnapping. Court documents in Argentina note that he was nicknamed “Churrasco” (Spanish for steak) – the term used for a metal bed frame on which detainees were electrocuted.
The Argentine dictatorship “disappeared” about 30,000 people during the “Dirty War” against suspected leftists and political dissidents.
In some cases victims’ infant children were stolen and given to couples loyal to the regime.
French police arrested Mr Sandoval on Wednesday at his home near Paris. Earlier the Council of State – France’s top administrative court – rejected his appeal, after years of legal wrangling.
He will be sent back to Argentina within a week, police say.
Mr Sandoval fled to France after the fall of the military junta and he obtained French citizenship in 1997. He can be extradited because the alleged crimes were committed before he became French.
He taught as a professor at the Sorbonne’s Institute of Latin American Studies in Paris (IHEAL) and the University of Marne-La-Vallée.
Hernán Abriata was arrested in 1976 and held at a notorious torture centre – the Navy Higher School of Mechanics (ESMA).
Mario Sandoval’s lawyer Jérôme Rousseau has now appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, alleging that his client will not get a fair trial in Argentina.
Mr Sandoval’s colleagues at the two prestigious institutes called for him to be arrested when they recognised him from a photo during the investigation.
IHEAL academics wrote in 2017: “Judicial action is essential to establish the truth and ensure that someone guilty of crimes against humanity cannot teach in a public institution, which is incompatible with the university’s ethics.”
Argentina’s military regime
1976: General Jorge Rafael Videla seizes power – thousands of political opponents rounded up and killed
1982: Videla’s successor, General Leopoldo Galtieri, orders invasion of British-held Falkland Islands
1983: Civilian rule returns to Argentina, investigations into rights abuses begin
2010: Videla sentenced to life imprisonment for murders during his term in office
2012: Videla sentenced to 50 years for overseeing systematic theft of the babies of political prisoners
2013: Videla dies in prison, aged 87