For the second consecutive week, a judge today ordered the seizure of the influential Spanish news magazine Cambio 16 following its continued publication of allegations that the security chief of the conservative opposition leader was a prominent member of Argentina's "Triple A" death squad in the early 1970s.
The judicial action may well increase sales of the magazine, since police are not actually seizing many copies, and the controversy stirred in Socialist-ruled Spain is now thought capable of threatening the political future of Popular Alliance leader Manuel Fraga Iribarne.
Fraga's bodyguard, ex-Argentine policeman Rodolfo Almiron, is suing the weekly Cambio 16 in an action sponsored by lawyers of the alliance that employs him.
A minister under dictator Francisco Franco, Fraga had responsibilities over press censorship in the 1960s. He emerged in elections last October as the most prominent opponent of the present Socialist administration.
In a series of investigative articles, Cambio 16 has alleged that Almiron was an operations leader of the notorious Argentine Anticommunist Alliance death squad, or "Triple A," which was responsible for the kidnaping, torture and murder of alleged leftists beginning in 1974--the onset of the "disappearances" under the then ruling Peronists. The practices proliferated after the military ousted the Peronists in 1976.
Following Cambio 16's reports, the Interior Ministry issued an order revoking Almiron's handgun license. Almiron was said by the national radio to have handed in weapons at a police station today.
The magazine has quoted several Argentine exiles naming Almiron in connection with "Triple A" activities and quoted detailed evidence delivered to the Argentine Commission on Human Rights by a former police colleague of Almiron that outlines his alleged role within the death squad.
Almiron arrived in Madrid in 1975 as bodyguard to fleeing Argentine ex-minister of social welfare Jose Lopez Rega--widely accused of having organized the "Triple A." Almiron, in filing his libel action, denied any connection with the rightist terror group and said he had traveled with Lopez Rega as part of his police duties. Almiron has since acquired Spanish nationality.
The judge exercised his wide powers by accepting Almiron's plea to have the magazines seized, overriding Cambio 16's objections.
Court seizure of magazines was a familiar tactic employed against critical publications during the Franco era but the practice had fallen into disuse following the restoration of democracy in Spain.
The controversy centers as much on Almiron's alleged activities in Argentina as on conservative leader Fraga's decision to employ him as chief bodyguard. Other questions raised by the allegations concern the apparent protection that Almiron received in official circles that enabled him to gain both Spanish nationality and a gun license--both of which require painstaking bureaucratic inquiries into a person's background.
Since the row erupted, the press has carried calls for the resignation of Fraga as opposition leader.