Arrest warrant for ex-dictator

Berlin - German justice authorities said on Monday they have ordered an international arrest warrant for ex-Argentine military dictator Jorge Rafael Videla over the killing of a German citizen while he was in power.

A spokesman for the prosecutor's office in the southern city of Nuremberg, Thomas Koch, told AFP that the warrant pertained to the murder of 20-year-old Rolf Stawowiok in the 1970s.

"The prosecutor's office applied for an arrest warrant at the end of December and it has come through in the meantime," he said.

Videla, now 84, is currently serving a life term at an Argentine barracks on multiple charges of human rights violations while he was at the helm of the country's military junta from 1976 to 1981.

The Nuremberg prosecutor's office opened a probe into the junta's former leaders including Videla in the late 1990s over the killing and disappearance of Germans during the so-called Dirty War.

But it dropped the cases after Argentine authorities rejected an extradition request.

Stawowiok, a German citizen who was born in Argentina while his father was doing development work, vanished in February 1978.

His father, Desiderius Stawowiok, said that Rolf was not active in the Argentine underground but was a sympathiser of the Peronist urban guerrilla group Montoneros, which was largely dismantled under Videla.

According to documents provided by a lawyer for the victim's family, he was employed as a chemist at a metalworking factory at the time.

Stawowiok received a telephone phone call at work the day he disappeared and rushed out of the office, saying he planned to meet someone on Plaza Once in central Buenos Aires, a colleague said.

He was never seen again.

Shortly afterwards, four or five heavily armed soldiers appeared at the Stawowiok family home and threatened Rolf's mother and sister. They questioned the two about Rolf and conducted an extensive search of the house.

One of the soldiers then grasped the gold necklace the daughter was wearing and said: "That is the same chain you were wearing in the picture."

The family took as evidence that Rolf must have been in military custody because he regularly carried a photograph of his sister with him.

Desiderius Stawowiok, who was out of town at the time his son disappeared, immediately sought the help of the German embassy, which arranged meetings with the military junta.

He received no information about the whereabouts of his son.

When he threatened to hold an international press conference before the soccer World Cup in July 1978 on his son's disappearance, a member of the junta told him this would endanger Rolf's life.

The family received an indemnification payment from the Argentine government in 1995 but never received information on the circumstances of his death.

German authorities reopened the case last year when Stawowiok's remains were discovered in Argentina showing that he had been shot several times.

During the years of junta rule some 30 000 people vanished and are still unaccounted for.

Videla was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes in 1985 but was pardoned and released in 1990 under former president Carlos Menem, only to be arrested again in 1998 for kidnapping children and other charges not included in his pardons.

The Nuremberg spokesman Koch, however, said it was unlikely Argentina would extradite Videla to face trial. - Sapa-AFP

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