A former navy commander who symbolized the repression of Argentina's military regime remains unrepentant for his role in a "dirty war" that left thousands of leftist dissidents dead.
Navy Cmdr. Alfredo Astiz admitted in a magazine interview this week that political prisoners were summarily executed during the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983."I am not sorry for anything," Astiz was quoted as saying in his first interview, given to the weekly center-left political magazine "tres-puntos."
"The navy taught me to destroy, to plant bombs, to infiltrate and to kill," said the 47-year-old Astiz, who has been accused of contributing to the deaths of two French nuns and an Argentine-Swedish teen-ager.
He noted that leftist guerrillas captured by security forces in 1973 had been pardoned and freed. "We couldn't risk that happening again," he said. "There was no other way."
In 1983, a government commission determined that approximately 9,000 people were arrested or kidnapped and subsequently disappeared during the dirty war.
Convicted and sentenced to life in prison in absentia by a French court in the 1977 murders of nuns Alice Domon and Leonie Duquet, Astiz retired from the navy in 1996 under pressure from the French government.
Astiz denied that he participated in the kidnapping of Argentine-Swedish teenager Dagmar Hagelin, who vanished in 1977. He said he knew who was responsible but declined to identify the person.
The girl's father, Ragnar Hagelin, told a radio station that he was "amazed" by those comments.
"Astiz is a coward, a liar and is crazy because he has been rejected by society," he said in a telephone interview from Sweden.
Astiz was among lower- and middle-ranking officers granted immunity from prosecution in 1987 for human rights abuses during the dirty war.
Half a dozen high-ranking officers, including two former presidents, were convicted of murder and torture in 1983 and were sentenced to prison. President Carlos Menem pardoned them in 1990.
Interior Minister Carlos Corach described the comments attributed to Astiz as "terrifying" and said he would ask Argentina's attorney general to determine whether charges could be brought based on the interview.
Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Carlos Marron ordered Astiz confined to a naval base for 60 days. Authorities described it as a "disciplinary measure" after Menem ordered "maximum sanctions" imposed on Astiz.