Chile: Judge Weighs Extradition of Former Dina Agent

NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs, July 25, 2003 | Go to article overview

Chile: Judge Weighs Extradition of Former Dina Agent


Chileans are caught up watching a kind of soap opera in which lower-ranking military involved in human rights abuses during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) are revealing information about crimes committed during that time and asking forgiveness. Several important indictments have recently been handed down, and a former secret police agent is being held under house arrest while a judge considers an extradition request for her to Argentina.

These events underscore the tensions between the former officers involved in past human rights violations and the current commanders who want to clear the record, said Hector Salazar, an attorney for victims of the dictatorship, to Inter Press Service.

Writer Mariana Callejas, a former member of Pinochet's feared secret police (Direccion Nacional de Inteligencia, DINA) was placed under house arrest on July 17 in relation to the September 1974 Buenos Aires car-bomb killing of Chilean Gen. Carlos Prats and his wife Sofia Cuthbert (see NotiSur, 2003-03-07).

Callejas was questioned for three hours by Corte Suprema Judge Nibaldo Segura following receipt a week earlier of an extradition request from Judge Maria Servini de Cubria, the Argentine judge in charge of the Prats case. Following the questioning, Callejas was returned to her residence where she is being kept under guard.

Callejas' ex-husband, Michael Townley, also a former member of the now disbanded DINA, was a key witness in the case and has admitted planting the bomb. However, he is under the US witness-protection program as part of a deal he made for naming his co-conspirators in the car-bombing assassination of former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and his US aide Ronni Moffitt in Washington, DC, in September 1976.

Judge Segura will now consider whether to grant extradition for Callejas. Sources for the Chilean daily La Nacion suggested that the request may well be rejected but that the judge could order Callejas tried in Chile. Judge Segura will also decide on an extradition request from Judge Servini for former Army Brig. Christopher Willike, wanted in the same case.

Another DINA agent, Enrique Arancibia, is the only person convicted to date in the Buenos Aires assassination (see NotiSur 2000-12-01). He is serving a life sentence in Argentina.

Other cases capture Chileans attention

On Sept. 21, Chilean Judge Juan Guzman indicted five retired army officers for a series of political killings in 1973 that became known as the Caravan of Death.

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