Priest Charged in 'Dirty War' Torture Could Face Justice Soon

Franco Reverberi fled to Italy from Argentina more than a decade ago
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 17, 2023 6:36 AM CDT
Priest Accused of Torture Faces Extradition From Italy
A photo of Reverberi from an Interpol wanted notice.   (Interpol)

A Catholic priest accused of taking part in torture sessions during Argentina's "Dirty War" regularly says Mass in the small town in northern Italy where he now resides—but victims still hope to see him face justice in Argentina. Franco Reverberi left Italy for Sorbolo, the town his parents emigrated from when he was a child, in 2011, the year after he was charged with crimes committed under the military junta that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983. People who were detained by the regime say Reverberi was present during torture sessions. They say Reverberi, a military chaplain, would watch the torture, sometimes holding a Bible and telling detainees it was God's will that they give the torturers information.

"The moment I saw Franco Reverberi, the priest from my village, come in, was the moment I thought I was going to die," Mario Bracamonte, who was tortured at a clandestine detention center because of his left-wing activism, tells the BBC. "I was lying on the floor soaked in blood after a night of torture. He came in dressed in his military uniform and looked at me impassively. I could not believe it." Another former detainee testified at a hearing in Argentina that Reverberi would even bless the instruments used by torturers, reports the Buenos Aires Times. Bracamonte was freed after a year. An estimated 30,000 others were killed by the regime, including many who were drugged and thrown into the sea from helicopters.

Attempts to extradite Reverberi, who is 85 and has heart problems, from Italy have dragged on for a decade. In 2013, an Italian court rejected an extradition request because torture was not a crime in Italy's legal code. It was added in 2017. In 2021, another extradition accused Reverberi of being involved in the murder of a 20-year-old man who disappeared in 1976. In Sorbolo, the community is divided, with some boycotting his services and others rallying around the priest. "If he really committed crimes as heinous as those he is accused of, I wonder how he can continue to be a priest with that weight on his conscience," retired teacher Lorenza Ramazzotti tells the BBC.

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Italy's justice minister signed an extradition order last month but Reverberi has appealed and the process is expected to last at least a few more months. Bracamonte, whose wife was also detained under the military junta, hopes to see the priest sent back to Argentina soon. "I am almost 80 years old, I want to be able to look him in the eyes and ask him where the bodies of the other activists who disappeared are," he says. (More Dirty War stories.)

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