Julio Poch, a victim of injustice
The event leading to the arrest of Julio was a dinner table conversation between colleagues, during a welcome dinner on Bali in 2003. It is a warm and beautiful evening in the tropics, the food is excellent, and beer and wine are shared over the meal. A discussion starts on the topic of Zorreguieta and the Argentinean regime of Videla. The discussion escalates. Emotions surface and speech turns passionate. The language? English, foreign to both Julio and his Dutch colleagues but used because of the presence of Australian and Indonesian guests. With colleague W emotion reaches high levels and colleague R must calm him down. Both W and R remember the reports, back in the late 70’s, in the Dutch media on the disappearance of individuals and the silent protest of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. They are unable to hear the other side: the atrocities committed by left-wing terrorist groups such as E.R.P. and Montoneros, about which the Dutch media had been mainly silent.
During the dinner discussion that evening, colleagues W and R misunderstood that Julio Poch stated that he himself piloted those planes from where people were thrown into the sea. Julio strongly denies both the statement and his involvement, It was a political discussion. In fact his pilot logbooks evidence that he was never able to fly these so-called “death flights”. At the time Poch was a fighter pilot on A4Q Skyhawk single-seat combat fighters, based on the aircraft carrier 25 de Mayo (ex Karel Doorman).
The aforementioned discussion at the end of the evening lasted around 10-15 minutes, and otherwise the dinner evening was pleasant and uneventful. This is not only evidenced by statements of those present during the dinner, but is also clearly evident from the pictures of the event taken by several of the attendees. Surprisingly, nothing about this discussion was said or commented afterwards by colleagues W and R, neither in Bali nor after returning to the Netherlands until years later.
A Chronology of the events following the dinner
- Early in 2006 R engages in a conversation with E, a copilot and deputy chief pilot with Transavia airlines. In front of a display of photos of all cockpit crew members R tells him that he does not talk to Julio any more. Then R informs E about the discussion around dinner back in 2003.
- After this E discusses ‘the case’ with W. Outside Transavia W is acquainted with E through their similar hobby. Through W, E becomes aware of W’s thoughts about Julio Poch. E also discusses the case with R.
- Based on the information obtained from R and W, copilot E (who had not been present in Bali, he joined Transavia in 2003) commences his own inquiry. He asks other pilots if they know or have heard anything regarding Julio’s ‘past’. Those answers that meet his objective and can be used to confirm his suspicions about Poch he groups with his ‘evidence’; those that don’t he conveniently disregards. Even if a colleague only says he knows Julio Poch flew in the Argentinean Navy, it serves his purpose. The rumor circuit starts to take the form of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Armed with his conclusions, copilot E seeks contact with Prof. Theo van Boven, Professor Emeritus in International Law and former UN Special Rapporteur on two Human Rights related portfolios, and UN director from 1977-1982 . Note: Following Poch’s arrest, it becomes evident to many of those colleagues questioned by E, that their statements and opinions had been falsified and manipulated with. Many of these colleagues willingly produce formal testimonies correcting E’s falsified version of their words in a manner legally binding (notary statement) under Dutch Law. Examining Judge Torres of Argentina does not grant ‘equivalent’ weight to these formal testimonies in Poch’s defense, in comparison to the ones he took himself.
- On May 12, 2006, Julio Poch is asked to attend an interview with the Head of Flight Operations. Also present is the Head of HRM (Human Resources). The Head of Flight Operations expresses his concern regarding rumors originated in a dinner on Bali. He wants to know what his role was as a military aviator. Julio shares openly: he used to fly as an officer pilot for the Argentinean Navy. Asked about the period of the Videla´s junta he says he flew fighter attack aircraft, in 1976 the Aermacchi MB-326 and from 1977 until his departure from the Navy in 1980 the A4Q Skyhawk. Asked about his opinion on the military dictatorship Julio states that he always – even openly – criticized the atrocities committed by the military junta. Julio wants to know the name of those colleagues spreading bad rumors about him and that he would like to meet with them to address any misunderstandings and answer any questions. The Head of Flight Operations says he cannot name them but will let him know after talking to them if a meeting is necessary.
- Retired UN Special Rapporteur Prof. van Boven supports E’s stories around Julio Poch’s supposed past and encourages E to take it to court. Note: In November 2009 Prof. van Boven receives an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
- Copilot E continues on his mission. In September 2006 he sends an email to the Dutch Police. It is unclear whether or not the Justice Department of the Netherlands opened an investigation following this first contact of E. Fact is, during the next two years nothing seems to be happening.
- Two years later, on 3 July 2008, E submits a formal witness statement. Shortly thereafter, the Justice Department submits a formal request for assistance to the Justice Department of Argentina. This request results in intensive contact between these two parties.
- None of the other people that were both present at the dinner and first-hand witness of the dinner conversation of 2003 on Bali, are asked by the Netherlands or Argentinean Justice Departments to testify. None of them. Note: It is important to note that all of them, besides W and R when asked to testify, would have refused – and refuse today – to support the testimonies of W and R, as well as the second-hand testimony of E.
- In December 2008, Argentinean Judge Torres flies over to the Netherlands to hear W, R and E under oath. A fourth witness W2 (a close friend of R who was not present in Bali, ) is also included. E, R, W and W2 are summoned to testify under oath by Dutch police. Torres uses the Spanish language, the official language of the Argentinean Justice Department. A translator translates back and forth between Dutch and Spanish. Upon completion the witnesses are offered this declaration to sign. The declaration is in the Spanish language. No written Dutch or English translation is offered. Although all four witnesses W, R, E and W2 cannot read what they are signing in Spanish, they sign the declaration. All the documents carry a literally identical and carefully prepared and formulated condemning clause linking Julio and the E.S.M.A. (Escuela de Mecánica de la Armada), a detention center in Buenos Aires where persons were detained, tortured and killed. They all sign in ignorance. There is no Dutch document or tape of the testimonies to verify their contents.
- On December 30, 2008 Argentina submits an Arrest and Extradition Request to The Netherlands. The Justice Department of the Netherlands takes no action and does not inform Julio Poch of this request.Note: “In the absence of a bi-lateral extradition treaty between theNetherlands and Argentina, Mr Poch could not have been extradited once he would have been arrested on Dutch territory. Instead, Mr Poch-being a Dutch national- could only have been prosecuted by the Dutch authorities before a Dutch court, presupposed that one would have had a reasonable suspicion that Mr Poch was held to be criminally liable for certain crimes.”
- In February 2009 Argentina submits via Interpol a formal request for the international capture and arrest of Julio Poch. The collaborative triangle relationship between the Justice Departments of Argentina, the Netherlands, and Spain is working at full force in preparation for Poch’s arrest. In the meantime, Julio Poch continues to fly as Captain within Transavia and pilots many a flight in and out of Spain. He also travels twice on vacation to Spain, wholly unaware of his planned arrest.
- On September 22, 2009, the proverbial trap is released. Julio flies his very last flight with Transavia before his retirement. He personally chooses one of his favorite Spanish destinations: Valencia. His wife is invited onboard; his son – a licensed copilot with Transavia – is his copilot. During the turn around in Valencia, just a couple of hours away from his welcome reception at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport, a Spanish police officer arrests him in order to extradite him to Argentina. The same afternoon a police squad raids his home in the Netherlands. The Dutch police copy the hard disk and confiscate his PC, two pilot logbooks from the Argentinean Navy, two diaries, and some photo slides. Note: All facts evidence that the date of Julio Poch’s arrest was carefully planned and orchestrated to coincide with his last flight prior to his retirement.