Chile denies asylum to fleeing judge

2012-05-18 08:46
Santiago - Chile has refused to grant political asylum to a former judge who fled Argentina to avoid trial on charges of crimes against humanity, authorities said.

Ex-judge Otilio Romano is accused of committing 103 human rights crimes while working as a prosecutor during Argentina's 1976 - 1983 military dictatorship. He fled across the border in August 2011, just before losing his judicial immunity.

Presidential spokesperson Andres Chadwick said Romano's political asylum bid was denied by a "special asylum commission" made up of government officials.

"We are very respectful that in Argentina there's a state of law," Chadwick told reporters at government house. "Courts have the power to go through with the necessary investigation and this should be done in the country of origin."

Romano's trial was scheduled to begin this year. He is accused of using confessions obtained through torture as evidence against dissidents and of rejecting habeas corpus requests made by families of junta opponents who disappeared at the hands of security forces. He is also charged with protecting military and security force members accused of crimes.

Romano has denied the charges, claiming political persecution in Argentina.

"I'm overjoyed that Chile is not willing to help the impunity of an Argentine dictatorship criminal who is responsible for many crimes against humanity," said Human Rights lawyer Eduardo Contreras.

Chile granted Romano an eight-month visa when he first arrived to the country. Now that his request has been denied, the government will take the visa away.

The Interior Minister will issue a temporary permit allowing him to remain in the country for the duration of his extradition trial. His extradition, however, can be appealed before Chile's Supreme Court.

In 2010, Argentina granted asylum to Galvarino Apablaza, a Chilean former leftist guerrilla leader charged with ordering the 1991 killing of Jaime Guzman, leader of the conservative Chilean party Independent Democratic Union.
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