Message from Julio Poch (January 16th, 2016)

Message from Julio Alberto Poch
Marcos Paz, Buenos Aires, Saturday, January 16th, 2016.

Dear friends, colleagues and visitors of the FJJP site,
After the repercussions in the Dutch media due to my previous update of December 12th, perhaps I should add “Dutch reporters” to the group receiving my updates. With this new message I wish to clarify some points which continue to be misunderstood.

Let´s try to get the facts straight. First of all it’s necessary to imagine yourselves in my situation. It has few advantages and many disadvantages. The main advantage is that I know I’m innocent and that I know I have never committed any crime. There is absolutely nothing suspicious or unknown about my short career in the Argentinean Navy. I can say without any doubt that I’m very proud of EVERYTHING I did as a professional naval aviator during the 8 years as an officer in the Navy. I -like some other colleagues of mine- didn’t participate in the war against the subversive terrorists that took place in the seventies.

Therefore, from the beginning, when I was arrested in September of 2009, I knew this was a huge mistake, or else an intentional persecution. Imagine my indignation when I was accused of being responsible for 615 victims of the ESMA, knowing I had never even been at the ESMA! Then on top of that came the ludicrous accusations of the “death flights”. Just as ridiculous, because I had no confirmation of their existence, having only heard and read stories about them (such as the story of Adolfo Scilingo).
This is the reason I accepted voluntarily my extradition from Spain to Argentina. I could PROVE this was all nonsense. I wanted to avoid an indictment, recover my good name and reputation and return to my family and home in The Netherlands. However, the instruction prosecutor Eduardo Taiano and judge Sergio Torres had other ideas. They went ahead and indicted me in June 2010. But upon appeal the indictment was nullified by the Appeals Court and I was released on bail in December. Even though the testimonies in The Hague in January 2011 confirmed it was all a misunderstanding, Torres made a new indictment in June 2011, in which he acquitted me of 585 victims (from the 615) but accused me of the remaining 30, as victims of the death flights. His main ABSURD points were: a) that I had “confessed” to colleagues during a dinner in Bali; b) that if I was not a pilot of the suspected transport aircraft (as we proved in the appeal), then I could have been a crewmember, or a passenger on the death flights, and c) that the concept “excellent” letter that I received from the Chief of Naval Operations for a one month commission in May of 1978 was equivalent to a decoration or medal. And since decorations were given in times of war, and the only war at the time was the war against subversive terrorism, it had to mean I had participated in that war.

These were the main FAR-FETCHED ideas of a judge desperately seeking to justify his involvement and decision to go ahead with my scandalous arrest while complying with the human rights organizations of Argentina that were avid for vengeance and scapegoats. Then in October of 2011 the same two judges (Eduardo Farah and Martín Irurzun) of the appeals court that had nullified the first indictment, while admitting they had doubts, sent me to trial anyway to wash their hands on the matter.
Please remember that all this time I knew with complete certainty that they were trying to “prove” something that had not occurred, that they were trying to involve me in something in which I had no part. To be “framed” by the State is not only a very serious and dangerous situation, but downright criminal! Even though the names of the pilots who in those years flew the Electras and DC-3s of the naval transport squadrons were known, none of them had ever been accused. Why?

In this ESMA mega-trial that began in November 2012, I was able to give evidence of my innocence. It consisted not only of my two navy flight logbooks, but included all my navy service records and files, plus the testimonies of my fighter attack squadron commanding officers. They all match and are irrefutable proof of my non-involvement. The prosecution realized it could not use the same arguments as Torres. The dinner talk in Bali was not a “confession”. So it put forward “new” theories: a) that although I was a fighter attack pilot during the military government, before that period I had also flown on some aircraft that could be considered “transport” aircraft; b) that the fighter attack squadron Aermacchi to which I belonged, had participated in the Sirena (Mermaid) exercise in 1976 which was an anti-subversive exercise with the navy of Paraguay; c) that my flight logbooks had some corrections, lacked some stamps and signatures and had no photo (therefore suggesting they were invalid); d) that I had obtained an ATPL (Air Transport Pilot License) in 1979 before leaving the navy to enter an airline, which meant I could fly any transport aircraft; and e) that the prosecution cannot prove but “believes” that the letter from the Chief of Naval Operations congratulating me must mean I had performed a special secret mission in May of 1978, probably in the war against the subversive terrorists.

What we immediately see again is that all these “theories” are pure conjecture and suppositions. Not even enough to be called “circumstantial” evidence. No serious accusation can be built on such wild conjectures. And of course there was no mention at all by the prosecution of the transport aircraft suspected of the death flights.
A false claim by the Dutch media is that “the prosecution says it has proof that his unit was used for the death flights“(“Er is volgens het OM bewijs dat zijn eenheid ook is ingezet voor de dodenvluchten.”). Besides being not true, the prosecution never claimed that my unit (squadron) was involved in carrying out death flights. The prosecution vaguely states that the Sirena exercise meant that fighter attack squadron performed patrols and population control of towns and people. Meaning that those squadrons also participated in the fight against subversion, which is false.

The Dutch newspapers also mention as a fact that during the military dictatorship (1976-1983) between one and five thousand prisoners were drugged and thrown into the sea. There is no real proof of this. Only SIX bodies were found at sea and the TOTAL AMOUNT of victims considered by the prosecution to be from the death flights is 56 (FIFTY-SIX). So you would expect that they have hard evidence that can really confirm these 56 cases, right? Wrong. They have none at all. Only the approximate dates in which those victims were detained and taken to the ESMA. The rest is all speculation. There are no dates of the infamous death flights, no aircraft types, no airport of departure or arrival, no names of crewmembers, just more conjecture and speculation. Is this a serious judicial case?

But back to my disadvantages. Because of all this, I have been unjustly arrested and I have been falsely accused. I have been humiliated and brought to my country portrayed as a terrible criminal. I have been locked up in a maximum security prison for more than 6 years. I have been treated as a criminal for crimes I did not commit or even know if they took place 40 years ago. But I will never give up and as long as I live I will fight this injustice.

I want to review each of the prosecution’s “conjectures” (definition: inference based on inconclusive or incomplete evidence):
a) My defense will demonstrate that during the entire military government I was EXCLUSIVELY a pilot of fighter attack aircraft. Like all naval aviators during my training years (1973 and 1974) I flew a few hours AS COPILOT of a Twin-Otter (total: 15 hours) and a Beechcraft Queen Air (total: 44 hours), which are not considered the transport aircraft suspected of the death flights. The Twin-Otter of the navy was sold at the end of 1974. The door of the small Queen Air (8 passengers) could not be opened in flight. During 1975 I was sent to the Search and Rescue (SAR) squadron with the Grumman Albatross HU-16 amphibian aircraft. I flew only a total of 3 (three) hours as pilot of the Albatross before being transferred to the Aermacchi fighter attack squadron in February 1976.

b) We will show categorically that the Sirena (Mermaid) exercise was not anti-subversive at all. Nothing in the newspapers of the time, nor the documents in the navy archives suggest this. It is a complete invention of the prosecution. The Sirena exercise was carried out only once a year, starting in 1975 and continued almost every year until 1995 when the Aermacchi squadron was dissolved (long after the subversion had been eradicated). It was a fraternal exercise to work together with the relatively small fluvial (river) forces of Paraguay and involved exercises on the rivers Paraná and Uruguay. It took place more than a thousand km. north of Buenos Aires, very far from the sea. Neither the two-seat Aermacchi jet aircraft nor the single seat Skyhawk A-4Q were ever used for population control.

c) Since it has no evidence at all, the intention of the prosecution is to attack the proof we presented, such as my naval flight logbooks. However, the prosecution criticizes them but tries to use the logbooks against me. Just like any written flight logbook, my logbooks have small corrections, but none of any significance. Some pages were not signed or stamped because it only needed to be done periodically and not on every page. The photo was the responsibility of the naval flight school. None of the pilots of my class of 1973-1974 have a picture. The logbooks identify me perfectly by my complete name and naval identification number: 005643. We provided several examples of the authenticity of both logbooks with other documentation, including publications.

d) With the intention to confuse, the prosecution mixes true facts with false ones. Indeed, during 1979 I obtained my commercial ATPL. It was a requirement for applying to a commercial airline. Like most pilots who wanted to leave the navy, in 1979 I presented a certificate from my fighter attack squadron showing all the aircraft flown and my total flight hours. A minimum of 1200 hours total flight time was required for the ATPL. I listed all the aircraft flown, even the Twin Otter in which I had flown only 15 hours as copilot in 1974. Unfortunately I had to stay one more year in the navy because I was needed as a Skyhawk A-4 fighter pilot. So finally I entered Aerolíneas Argentinas in January of 1981. As every pilot knows, having an ATPL does not automatically mean that you can fly any transport aircraft. For each aircraft you must obtain a separate TYPERATING, completing a training syllabus. Then we must consider the timeline: I’m being accused of death flights in 1976, 1977 and one victim of February 1978, long before obtaining my ATPL. The prosecution does not say with WHICH AIRCRAFT I supposedly performed those flights, while omitting the obvious fact that in Buenos Aires, at the base of Ezeiza, there were two complete naval transport squadrons with three Lockheed Electra L-188 and four Douglas DC-3 respectively, which flew every day regular transport flights for the navy.

e) Once again the letter in my navy records congratulating me for an excellent performance in a commission in the month of May of 1978 is used against me, this time with a twist. The prosecution stated it didn’t “believe” it had to do with the conflict with Chile. But it is true, I had then been requested to translate communications in English to Spanish that were being recorded from the Chilean consulate in the city of Bahía Blanca. Instead the prosecution “thinks” it had to be a special mission against the subversion. Nothing more ridiculous! I was then the most junior pilot in the 3rd fighter attack squadron of Skyhawk A-4Q. I had just returned at the end of 1977 from my Skyhawk training in Kingsville, Texas, USA. Would the navy send the most junior lieutenant on a special mission? And with what aircraft, a single seat Skyhawk? And also I am not accused of any victims in May of 1978.

Of course many proclamations from the prosecutor Mrs. Soiza Reilly were totally false. But some were reproduced by the Dutch media as if they were true or even changed. For example: “Toen hij (Poch) in 1979 solliciteerde bij luchtvaartmaatschappij Aerolíneas Argentinas, zei hij ruime ervaring had met personenvliegtuigen. Die ervaring blijkt ook uit zijn logboeken.” I already explained that I didn’t request to enter AA in 1979. That was the year I obtained my ATPL. Then in January of 1981 when I did, I never said I had experience with passenger aircraft. It was not necessary. I just presented a copy of my ATPL and the certificate of the navy with all the aircraft flown and the total amount of hours. Everything in my logbooks is completely correct and accurate. The only passenger aircraft were those I mentioned, considered small executive aircraft, and flown in 1974. For the record: the military government started on March 24th, 1976. I was already since February 11th of 1976 the most junior pilot of the 1st fighter and attack squadron with the two-seat Aermacchi jet. Then in February 1977 I transferred to the 3rd fighter and attack squadron with Skyhawk A-4 (where I was also the most junior pilot to ever reach that squadron as Teniente de Corbeta -Lieutenant Junior Grade), until my retirement 1st of December 1980.
I hope this information helps you understand what kind of judicial process we have had here in Argentina under the left-wing Kirchner regime. This is without entering into other important considerations that make these trials of vengeance totally illegal and unconstitutional. Just to name a few: a) the military are being judged by civilian tribunals instead of military ones; b) these crimes have prescribed many years ago; c) the figure of “crimes against humanity” being used did not exist at the time (not even the “Juntas” were judged by this figure in 1985); c) The Treaty of Rome was signed by Argentina in 2005 and states that the “crimes against humanity” cannot be used for occurrences of the past; d) the extended provisional prison terms (up to 14 years!) are illegal; d) the Constitution of Argentina states that you cannot be tried by special tribunals such as the ones made for this purpose, etc., etc. (and there are at least ten other unconstitutional issues in these trials). In last year’s update the human rights organizations counted a total of 153 (one hundred and fifty three) of the so-called “crimes against humanity” trials with 660 convicted and 60 acquitted (of more than 2000 indicted).

The new government has promised an independent justice and we hope it brings an end to these trials of vengeance. However, I don’t want an amnesty or presidential pardon. I want to be ACQUITTED in court and recover my FREEDOM. Justice that arrives late is not real justice because unfortunately my family and I will never recover the years lost.

Yours truly,