Chilean judge charges ex-US military officer

AP News
Posted: Nov 29, 2011 6:41 PM
Chilean judge charges ex-US military officer

A judge investigating abuses during Chile's dictatorship is seeking the extradition of a former U.S. military officer on murder charges in the 1973 killing of two Americans, including one whose disappearance was the focus of the film "Missing," court officials said Tuesday.

Former U.S. Navy Capt. Ray E. Davis was charged in the deaths of journalist Charles Horman and U.S. student Frank Teruggi, who were killed during the 1973-1990 regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The court statement said retired Chilean army Brigadier Pedro Espinoza Bravo was also charged in the murders.

Judge Jorge Zepeda asked Chile's Supreme Court to authorize an extradition request so that Davis may be tried in Chile, the court said in its statement.

Davis was the commander of the U.S. military mission in Chile at the time of the coup that toppled socialist President Salvador Allende, working as a liaison between the U.S. and Chilean militaries.

His current whereabouts were not immediately clear. Espinoza is jailed in a special Chilean prison for offenders convicted of human rights abuses serving sentences in separate cases.

"I'm stunned. I'm so glad for this step forward," Horman's widow, Joyce Horman, told The Associated Press.

The U.S. Embassy in Chile released a statement saying that as a matter of policy the State Department does not comment on specific extradition matters.

"The U.S. government continues to support a thorough investigation into the Horman and Teruggi deaths in order to bring those responsible to justice," the statement said.

The search for Charles Horman, who disappeared two weeks after the coup, by his wife and his father, Ed Horman, was the topic of the 1982 movie "Missing," which starred Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon in the roles. The film won a best screenplay Oscar.

The film suggested American complicity in Horman's death and drew vigorous objections from U.S. State Department officials at the time.

The case remained almost ignored in Chile until 2000, when Joyce Horman went to Chile and filed a lawsuit against Pinochet. She said she was acting on behalf of all victims of Chile's dictatorship. A national commission has determined that 3,095 people were killed or disappeared.

"We always thought that Chile's military would look to an American official before they killed an American," said Joyce Horman, who lives in New York.

According to court papers, Horman, a freelance journalist and filmmaker, was arrested on Sept. 17, 1973, shortly after the coup and taken to Santiago's main soccer stadium, which had been turned into a detention camp for Pinochet's suspected opponents. He was 31 at the time.

A national truth commission said Horman was executed the next day while in the custody of state security agents. It also said Teruggi, then a 24-year-old university student, was similarly executed several days later, on Sept. 22.

In the indictment, Zepeda alleged that the killings of Horman and Teruggi occurred during a secret investigation by U.S. officials into the activity of Americans at home and in Chile, "activity that U.S. agents considered 'subversive.'"

Zepeda said the U.S. journalist was considered a subversive for his work as a screenwriter for the Chilean state film company during Allende's government. The judge alleged that Davis could have stopped Horman's execution but didn't because he considered his work "subversive" and "extremist."

Zepeda said Horman may have also been killed because he inadvertently found out about U.S. "collaboration during the military events unfolding" in Chile's military coup.

A previously classified State Department memorandum from 1976, released in 1999, stated that "U.S. Intelligence may have played an unfortunate part in Horman's death. At best, it was limited to providing or confirming information that helped motivate his murder by the GOC (Government of Chile). At worst, U.S. Intelligence was aware the GOC saw Horman in a rather serious light and U.S. officials did nothing to discourage the logical outcome of GOC paranoia."

Peter Kornbluh, author of "The Pinochet File," who led efforts to declassify more than 25,000 U.S. documents on Chile, said the judge has made ample use of these documents "demonstrating their value to moving the wheels of justice forward in these two infamous murders.

"After 38 years of waiting at least the wheels of justice are turning in Chile; the legacy of U.S. involvement is obviously a factor in this case," said Kornbluh, who heads the Chile documentation project at the Washington-based National Security Archive.

Zepeda's indictment said a U.S. government agency advised the FBI that their sources had told them Teruggi was closely linked to an organization called the Chicago Area Group on the Liberation of the Americas and that Teruggi purportedly was producing leftist propaganda to be distributed in the U.S.

Both Teruggi and Horman were monitored by U.S. agents in Chile, Zepeda said, adding that the information gathered was passed on to Chilean intelligence officials who ordered the men's detentions.

The whereabouts of Davis, who would now be in his mid-80s, were unclear. But in a Feb. 13, 2000, article, The New York Times quoted him as saying that he had nothing to do with the deaths. He said Teruggi and Horman were "down there handing out pamphlets against the government."

Janis Teruggi Page, the sister of Frank Teruggi, said she is looking forward to studying the evidence behind the indictments.

"The fact that Judge Zepeda has spent considerable time investigating and evaluating these cases gives me hope that finally the truth will be revealed about their murders, and justice will be achieved," said Page, who lives in Evanston, Illinois.


Associated Press writer David W. Koop in Mexico City contributed to this report.



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