MADRID (AP) — Two former Spanish police officers accused of torturing people during the country's Franco dictatorship said Thursday they will fight extradition to Argentina, where a judge acting on the principle of universal jurisdiction has issued warrants for their arrests.
Jose Antonio Gonzalez Pacheco and Jesus Munecas Aguilar made the declaration to a Spanish judge who ordered them to surrender their passports, report to court weekly and to ask for permission to leave Spain while the extradition case takes months to wind through the justice system.
The two did not comment to reporters outside the Madrid court after they left the closed door hearing, wearing sunglasses and scarves in an attempt to hide their faces. But Munecas Aguilar gave the judge a letter denying the accusations, said a court spokeswoman who spoke on condition of anonymity because of court rules preventing her from being named.
Alleged victims have said that Gonzalez Pacheco was known for cruelty and nicknamed "Billy the Kid" because he used to spin a gun on his finger like a cowboy during interrogation sessions.
Munecas Aguilar was previously sentenced to five years in jail and expelled from the Civil Guard for his participation in Spain's 1981 coup attempt, when 200 guard members invaded parliament and took lawmakers hostage.
The Argentine probe started after a much publicized investigation into Franco era crimes launched by famed former Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon was halted when the magistrate was barred from the bench in 2012 for a overstepping his jurisdiction in a separate case.
Garzon's explusion raised a storm in Spain and abroad because he was seen by many as a champion of human rights, particularly after he indicted former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998.
But Garzon's Franco crimes probe also faced stiff Spanish opposition because it was seen as going against an amnesty passed two years after Franco's death. He was also accused of opening old wounds from a dark chapter in the nation's history.
Gen. Francisco Franco ruled Spain from 1939 to until his death in 1975. The principle of universal jurisdiction, used in Argentina and Spain, holds that some crimes are so bad they can be tried anywhere.