Argentine suspects testify in Frenchwomen deaths

AP News
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Posted: Aug 08, 2011 6:32 PM
Argentine suspects testify in Frenchwomen deaths

Suspects held in the slaying of two French tourists were questioned under oath by an investigative judge Monday.

Judge Martin Perez began with a retired police official's daughter, Maria Canizares, who testified that she and her brother got the victims' cellphone and camera from her boyfriend, a part-time tourist guide. She said her boyfriend told her that he found the items in a sandwich shop.

She also swore that she never saw any images on the camera or cellphone, and knew nothing about the killings.

Authorities say those images _ some of which were erased and later recovered by investigators _ include the last moments of Frenchwomen Cassandre Bouvier and Moumni Houria before they were attacked while hiking in provincial Salta.

The female suspect's brother, police cadet Federico Canizares, refused to testify, as is his constitutional right in Argentina.

The boyfriend, Gustavo Lasi, went before the judge and admitted he gave his girlfriend the cellphone. But then he broke down and said he felt too sick to continue testifying.

Attorney Santiago Pedroza, who represents Maria Canizares, told reporters he agreed with investigators on one point:

"Among the detainees is the person or persons responsible for this double crime. It remains to be seen who did what."

Pedroza said Lasi gave the phone to his client three days after the French women disappeared on July 15.

Images recovered on the cellphone show the tourists entering the hiking trail at 3:30 p.m. on that day. Three days later, someone switched the chip inside and turned on the phone.

Salta's governor, Juan Manuel Urtubey, credited Argentina's national intelligence agency, SIDE, with tracing the signal to the retired police official's house and setting up eavesdropping on the phone to help crack the case.