A cry for help

Message from Julio A. Poch

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dear friends, colleagues and visitors of the FJJP site,
From the prison of Marcos Paz, I wish to give an update of the present
ongoing ‘Unified ESMA’ (ESMA III) trial and of my personal situation.
As many of you know, after several postponements, the trial began on
November 26th, 2012. Although initially it was estimated it would take two
years to complete, it now seems it will take at least three years. It’s still in
the testimonial phase. Establishing with any accuracy how many witnesses
of the total of 950 remain to testify, is quite difficult. Many witnesses have
failed to appear, others have refused to do so, and a large number cannot
be found. Since last February, the Federal Tribunal TOF 5 has seen the
weekly trial days reduced from three, to only two. The reasons for this are
the need to share the courtroom with other human rights cases, of which
there’s a backlog for years to come. Other contributing factors are
bureaucratic restrictions such an appalling lack of resources, and few
office working days and hours. As an example, last week’s hearing of April
10th was cancelled because of a national strike which also included the
judicial workers. Now, due to the Easter festivities, the next hearing will
take place on April 23rd, two weeks after the last one.

In the meantime, extending our pretrial detention, all defendants in human
rights cases are systematically denied any possibility of freedom, resulting
in endless (and illegal) preventive prison periods. One example is
defendant Juan Carlos Rolón, who has been in prison since the year 2000.
He was acquitted in the previous ESMA II trial which ended in 2011. He
now has been 14 years in preventive prison! His case is emblematic of the
persecution of all former military and police members, for whom a
different (revenge seeking) penal justice system is applied. The ‘normal’
penal law establishes a maximum of three years, so this is clearly a
violation of our basic legal and human rights. Once again, it’s necessary to
remind everyone that the presumption of innocence does not apply to us.
As an innocent victim of this ‘judicial trap’, I feel totally abandoned by the
law and by society. Everyone here in the Argentine Navy and in this prison knows
that I had no participation at all in the war against terrorism of the
seventies, and much less in the ‘death flights’. However, although this
provides some comfort for my everyday life in prison, the fact that I should
not be here makes it very hard for me to accept such a long incarceration
(four years).

I have repeatedly expressed that I’m a ‘political prisoner’ in Argentina.
Since 2003, the Argentine government has been busy with the ideological
and political persecution of former members of the Armed and Security
Forces, with more than 1600 men already indicted and/ or condemned of
‘crimes against humanity’. Many of them were low ranking officers and
petty officers at the time, following orders from their superiors. And more
than 230 of them have already died in prison.

In this ‘Unified ESMA’ trial, I have been included among 65 (sixty five)
defendants accused of crimes against humanity carried out at the ESMA
detention center. Besides those accused of acting at the ESMA, the
Argentine justice needs some ‘scapegoats’ for the death flights. Of those
65, only seven of us have been accused of the ‘death flights’ supposedly
carried out by transport aircraft of the Armed Forces of Argentina. But
incredibly, no transport aircraft pilots of any branch of the Armed Forces
have been included or accused (suspected Navy aircraft were the Lockheed
Electra L-188 and the Douglas DC-3).

Since the year 2009 my human rights have been systematically violated by:
• An arbitrary arrest with the lack of ‘prima facie case’.
• Violation of the presumption of innocence.
• Reversal of the burden of proof.
• Violation of judicial independency.
• Exceed maximum time of preventive prison (more than 3 years).
• Erroneous application of the concept of collective criminal
responsibility.

In Argentina, the present government of Cristina Fernández has demonized
certain sectors of the citizenship, who are blamed for all evils. By not
respecting the Constitution, the government is destroying the State of
Justice and the Equality before the Law. There is nothing worse in the
world than being persecuted by a government that only seeks revenge and vengeance.
This is a modern day ‘witch hunt’ using as excuse the defense
of human rights!

I believe this shows my present feelings. Such a long trial of several years
duration becomes in itself a barbaric act of injustice. Its negative effects
are not only for the defendants, but also for the judges, prosecutors,
lawyers, witnesses and families of the victims. Do I need to explain what it
means to someone innocent?

Our family has been blessed with the arrival of a ‘new’ granddaughter
named ‘Eva Sofía’, born in the Netherlands like the rest of our
grandchildren. Hopefully, I will get acquainted with her later this year
when my daughter travels to Argentina.

I wish to express my deepest pain and sorrow for the tragic loss of my dear
friend and great person, Captain Gustavo Mirra, who perished in an
aircraft accident this past March 29th. May he rest in peace. It was an
honor to know him, and always a pleasure to receive his visits here at
Marcos Paz.

I remain in good health fortunately. This past summer was unusually torrid
in Buenos Aires. It’s now quite a relief to enter autumn with more pleasant
temperatures. I try to keep busy writing about this ordeal with the hope of
someday denouncing this judicial travesty.

Thanks for your interest in my case. And to those friends and colleagues
who have supported and helped my family and me during these difficult
times, I want to express my special heartfelt gratitude. We will continue
fighting for JUSTICE. Please value and enjoy your freedom, I took it for
granted.

Happy Easter!
With friendly greetings,
Julio.

Julio during happier times.
Julio in happier times.

Link to Julio’s letter in pdf format