“I am an exceptional prisoner. » It was with these words that 69-year-old Mario Alfredo Sandoval spoke on Wednesday, September 14, in Buenos Aires, during the opening of his trial for the kidnapping and torture of the student and Peronist activist Hernan Abriata, on October 30, 1976, during the Argentine dictatorship (1976-1983).
A former French-Argentine policeman is accused of “accomplice of the crime of unlawful deprivation of personal liberty followed by torture” against Hernan Abriato, who disappeared, like 5000 other opponents, from the School of Marine Mechanics, the sinister ESMA, where he was detained.
When democracy returned in 1985, Mr. Sandoval settled in France and twelve years later acquired its nationality. During the hearing, which was held in person and via video conference, he introduced himself as “French and Argentine, but Argentine by duty”. Mario Sandoval was extradited from his home in Nogent-sur-Marne on December 15, 2019, after an almost eight-year legal marathon that culminated in a decree signed in 2018 by then-Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet. and confirmed by the State Council on December 11, 2019.
Mario Sandoval, who has been in custody since then, appeared before the Federal Court no. 5 properly masked, he wore black gloves and a dark blue jacket with a blue-white-red patch on the shoulder. “It looked like he was in a French policeman’s uniform.” notes Monica Dittmar, 70, widow of Hernan Abriato, present in the courtroom. It was a provocation, he was intimidating, he is a really scary person. »
The morgue of the accused
As soon as Judge Fernando Canero gives him the floor, the man engages in a long lesson in international law, believing his rights have been violated. “Am I a human being without human rights, a subhuman? », he is asking. He’s moving “not being the inspector or commissioner Sandoval who went to the Abriata family home” on the night of October 30, 1976. And he considers himself a victim of homonymy, although he admits for the first time that he was actually employed by the Superintendence of Federal Security (SSF), Argentina’s federal police agency.
In the courtroom – where Carlos Loza (69), who was detained at the ESMA at the same time as the young Abriata – is also present – the arrogance with which Mario Sandoval answers Judge Canero provokes outraged reactions and forces the judge to call on the public to order. When asked what his education is, Mario Sandoval answers: “I can read and write. » “But did you study? », the judge insists. “Doctor, I can read and write. » Mr. Canero is impatient: “Besides, I’m asking you if you studied. » Mario Sandoval does not discuss: “Enough to know how to read and write. »
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