Message from Julio A. Poch
Marcos Paz, Buenos Aires, Tuesday, August 18th, 2015.
Dear friends, colleagues and visitors of the FJJP site,
I would like to give you all a much delayed update regarding my judicial situation. And use this occasion to correct the news which appeared in the Dutch media yesterday.
It is hard to understand where some Dutch reporters obtain their information. Apparently their only goal is to write a sensational story, even if nothing has happened to justify it. And some have quite a “somber” outlook not based on facts. Although this ESMA mega-trial is of a highly political nature my future outlook is far from “somber”. Not only is there no proof of my involvement in any crime but we have presented a great deal of evidence that I did not participate in the “death flights”. In normal trials the prosecution has to prove the guilt of the accused ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, but they do not respect that here in Argentina. Therefore my defense has gone to great lengths to leave no doubts about my innocence. These crimes supposedly occurred almost forty years ago and we have both the testimonial as well as the documentary evidence to prove I was then a fighter pilot, flying only the Aermacchi MB-326 and the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk during the four years of the military government until I retired from the Navy in December of 1980.
The incongruity of the Argentinean justice is evident. My first indictment -and my arrest and extradition- were based on 615 victims of the ESMA. But we proved that I had never been at the ESMA. So that indictment was nullified in October of 2010. The second indictment in June of 2011 was reduced to 30 victims, which were also assigned to me arbitrarily. Only their approximate date of detention is known. But it is unclear whether they were thrown from airplanes. Only six bodies were found. Surprisingly, I “share” these same victims with the other four pilots accused (pilots that flew the Shorts Skyvan and the Alouette helicopter). The dates of the flights and the aircraft types used are unknown. And of course it is not known who the pilots of the death flights were, or for that matter, whether they ever took place. So the truth is on our side and the prosecution is just desperately trying to pin these crimes on somebody.
The fact is that Scilingo has repeatedly admitted that he invented the whole story about the death flights in 1993 to sell it to Verbitsky, who published it in his book “The Flight” in 1995. Scilingo’s most recent testimony -this time under oath- made last June, has been accepted by our Tribunal and incorporated into our ESMA trial documentation (not into my personal case file). There Scilingo confirms that he lied and has the documentation to prove it. I don’t know Scilingo and I doubt whether his testimony will have any effect on our trial.
The prosecution will probably seek the sentence of life in prison for all 58 defendants, not just for me. Of course this is terrifying! Because in this “twilight zone” scenario this request is normal in trials of “crimes against humanity”. The petition will be in the final part of the prosecution’s statement, expected around the end of September. And the date of finalization of this trial is anybody’s guess but considering how slowly it is progressing, it will probably not end this year.
I insist: I should not have been deprived of my freedom. I don’t deserve to be accused of anything. I have been a normal and hard-working citizen in Argentina and in the Netherlands. I have never harmed any human being in my life. Since the year 1995 I am a Dutch citizen and because I had nothing to hide I also kept my Argentinean citizenship. These accusations are a huge mistake and a terrible injustice.
After the national elections of October, Argentina will have a new government next December 10th. This allows us to hope for an improvement in the justice system with less pressure on the judges. I sincerely believe that the judges of our Tribunal can be fair. Therefore I’m confident that with all the exculpatory evidence presented, even the (less trustworthy) Argentinean justice system should acquit me. And although the prosecution almost always appeals, they cannot prohibit me to return home to the Netherlands.
Thanks to the love and support of my family, friends and former colleagues (both from the navy and from the airlines) I will continue to fight until justice is served and I can recover my freedom. I wish to repeat how grateful I am for your help and support. I need you all more than ever to survive this unfair ordeal. I cannot do it alone. Those who know me and believe in my innocence will not be disappointed. To my dear family who are also victims: just a little more patience and we will soon be reunited!
I also include two pictures, the first one taken during my A-4 conversion training in the U.S. in 1977 with the two-seat Skyhawk TA-4J. The name of my American instructor is on it: Lt. Sheldon.
The second one is from November 1980 just before leaving the Argentinean Navy, standing in the entrance of the A-4Q Skyhawk squadron hangar with my son Andrés and daughter Mariana.