Second Argentine judge orders Isabel Peron arrested

Tuesday, January 16, 2007; 2:23 PM

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - A second Argentine judge issued an international arrest warrant on Tuesday for former President Isabel Peron, who faces extradition from Spain over the killings of leftist dissidents during her 1974-1976 rule.

Federal Judge Norberto Oyarbide ordered that Peron return to Argentina to answer questions about a government-linked death squad called the Argentine Anti-communist Alliance, which operated prior to the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

Peron, 75, was briefly detained on Friday in Spain after another Argentine judge, Raul Acosta, sought her for questioning over the 1976 disappearance of a man whom rights groups say was last seen being taken into custody by state security officials.

Acosta also accuses Peron of signing three decrees that facilitated acts of state terrorism during her government.

A Spanish court granted Peron provisional release while it decides whether to extradite her. A court source said she was not expected to flee due to her delicate health.

Peron, whose full name is Maria Estela Martinez de Peron, was the third wife of legendary three-time Chilean president Juan Domingo Peron. She assumed power when her husband died in 1974, at a time of increasing violence between leftist guerrilla groups and right-wing death squads.

In March 1976, she was ousted in a military coup that ushered in the seven-year "Dirty War," during which between 11,000 and 30,000 dissidents were kidnapped and killed.

Oyarbide has already ordered the arrests of several suspected members of the Argentine Anti-communist Alliance, or Triple A, which human rights groups accuse of up to 2,000 abductions and murders prior to the dictatorship.

Prosecutors say the political architect of the Triple A was Isabel Peron's social welfare minister, Jose Lopez Rega, known as "the sorcerer" for his reported belief in astrology.

Lopez Rega died in 1989, and officials dropped the investigation into the group until Oyarbide reopened it last month, arguing the statute of limitations did not apply because the clandestine squad had committed crimes against humanity.

The warrants for Peron's arrest are part of a broader drive to prosecute human rights abuses during military rule after amnesty laws were overturned in 2005, with center-left President Nestor Kirchner's strong backing.

Kirchner said after Isabel Peron's arrest last week that "no one is above the law."

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