updated 2/29/2008 3:11:31 PM ET 2008-02-29T20:11:31

A Spanish court has decided to close a case against an important Argentine "dirty war" suspect on trial for genocide, terrorism and other alleged crimes and instead extradite him to stand trial in his home country, officials said Friday.

Ricardo Miguel Cavallo is a former military officer who was considered a leading figure in the repressive military juntas that ruled Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s. He was extradited from Mexico City, where he was living under an assumed identity, to Madrid in 2003 after Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon charged him with genocide, terrorism and other crimes.

Garzon acted under a Spanish legal doctrine that allows egregious offenses to be prosecuted in Spain even if they are alleged to have been committed elsewhere -- a doctrine known as universal justice.

Cavallo had been expected to stand trial in Spain, but in December 2006 the National Court gave priority in the case to Argentina because the crimes allegedly occurred there and Cavallo was under investigation in Argentina -- a consideration that can block a universal justice case.

Argentina has repealed laws that once granted immunity to military personnel accused of abuses during the junta era.

But in yet another twist, the Spanish Supreme Court in July of last year upheld an appeal by prosecutors who wanted the trial to take place in Madrid. The Supreme Court ruled Spain's National Court had jurisdiction over the case and could proceed with the trial.

But the National Court has now decided the charges against Cavallo in Argentina are similar to those in Spain, so it will close the case and allow his extradition, a court spokeswoman told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in keeping with court rules.

Spain's government agreed to Cavallo's extradition in a cabinet meeting Friday and Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said Cavallo will be extradited to Argentina to face trial there.

Cavallo, also known by his nicknames "Marcelo" or "Serpico," has been in prison in Spain since June 29, 2003, when he was extradited from Mexico. He had been living there under an assumed name and running a motor vehicle registry. But a newspaper ran a front-page picture of him and five former political prisoners identified him as their torturer, leading to his arrest.

Cavallo was a navy commander in Buenos Aires and worked in the Navy Mechanical School -- known by its Spanish initials ESMA -- which became a notorious detention center in Buenos Aires where thousands of prisoners were tortured or executed.

Spain's government agreed on 15 Feb. to extradite former police officer Rodolfo Eduardo Almiron Sena to Argentina to face charges that include genocide.

Almiron is also suspected of having been a member of a far-right death squad during the 1970s.

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