Jailed Argentine ex-army officer Alejandro Lawless escapes

Wanted poster form the Argentine Justice Ministry Lawless handed himself in to police in 2009 after a reward for his capture had been offered

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A former Argentine army officer jailed for crimes against humanity committed under military rule has escaped while in transit to a court in Buenos Aires.

Alejandro Lawless, 66, absconded from a police van outside the court building.

Lawless was sentenced for involvement in kidnapping, torturing and killing political opponents of the government between 1976 and 1983.

He is the third convicted military officer to escape from custody this year.

Two ex-army officers, Jorge Olivera and Gustavo De Marchi, broke out of a military hospital in July and are still on the run.

Seven members of staff were relieved of their duties following their escape.

'Distracted'

Lawless was being taken to a court in central Buenos Aires at midday on Tuesday along with other prisoners.

The security guards said he took advantage of their momentary distraction while other prisoners were being taken from the van to the court house.

Lawless, an engineer who served as a lieutenant-colonel in the army, was found guilty in 2010 of crimes against humanity committed in the city of Bahia Blanca.

Prosecutors said "he formed part of a criminal plan to kidnap, torture, kill and disappear people using the structures of the armed forces".

An estimated 30,000 people were killed during the seven years of military rule in a campaign against perceived dissidents known as the "Dirty War".

Investigations into human rights abuses committed under military rule have led to the imprisonment of key figures of the military junta, including that of Gen Jorge Rafael Videla who died in prison earlier this year while serving a life sentence.

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