French court refuses Argentina torture suspect extradition

Beatriz Cantarini de Abriata, mother of Hernan Abriata, who disappeared in 1976 in Argentina, protests in front of the French embassy in April 2014 (AFP Photo/Daniel Garcia)

Paris (AFP) - France's top appeals court on Wednesday ruled against extraditing Mario Alfredo Sandoval, a former policeman wanted by Argentina for torture and rights abuses under the country's military dictatorship.

The Cour de Cassation reversed a decision made last year by another court approving the extradition of Sandoval, who acquired French nationality in the 1980s, and ordered that the case be re-examined.

Sandoval is wanted over the alleged kidnapping in October 1976 of a student named Hernan Abriata, who was never found, as well as a slew of other disappearances.

An international arrest warrant was issued for him in 2012 at Argentina's request for torture, kidnappings and murder.

Sandoval denies all the accusations, saying they are fabricated.

In May last year, a French court ruled in favour of extraditing him, focusing on the sole case of Abriata, whom Sandoval is accused of illegally detaining.

But the Cour de Cassation argued that the court did not sufficiently explain how the student could have continued to be detained after the end of the dictatorship in 1983 -- a legal technicality that forced it to ask for the case to be re-examined.

Sophie Thonon-Weisfred, the lawyer representing Argentina, said she was disappointed but still cheered by the fact that the case will be re-examined.