Ex-Navy Pilot Denies Role in 'Death Flights' in Argentine Dirty War

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During a federal court hearing in Buenos Aires, a former navy pilot denies participating in so-called "death flights" during Argentina's Dirty War.

On Monday a retired Argentine navy pilot was tried for alleged participation in "death flights" during Argentina's Dirty War.

In death flights pilots brutally killed prisoners by dropping them into the sea.

Julio Poch is only one of eight pilots with human rights charges related to the death flights. Poch has denied claims of any involvement.

[Julio Poch, Former Argentine Naval Pilot]:
"Judges, I also want to affirm, one more time, that I did not take part in those death flights. Not as a pilot, copilot, or crew member. I don't know anything about whether the death flights existed or not; whether they happened or not. Everything I know about that, and what I am going to say later, I know from what has been published in the media, from what I've read in books and I will mention them later. If these flights did exist it seems horrible, abhorrent and inhuman to me, but I never said I was involved with them. This is a complete absurdity."

Human rights activists outside the courthouse, expressed doubts in the pilot's claims.

Valeria Canal, a lawyer for Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice Against Oblivion and Silence, also called HIJOS, said she hoped the truth would come out.

[Valeria Canal, Laywer, HIJOS Organization]:
"I'd like to know what they sincerely think and that they say it. They know a lot. There is a lot in their mouths and there is a lot that family members have been waiting for more than 30 years to hear and we still haven't heard it."

A judge originally ordered Poch to be extradited to Argentina in 2010 after a meeting with Poch's colleagues.

They said Poch boasted about hurling prisoners into the sea during the war.

Details about the death flights were a mystery until a boxy 19-seater aircraft called the Skyvan that was sold by the Argentine coast guard was found in the U.S.

Inside were flight records detailing the names of pilots who flew it during the Argentine Dictatorship.

According to a government report, more than 11 thousand people died or disappeared during the Dirty War.

Human rights groups say the number is closer to 30 thousand.

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