Former Chilean military officials held in singer's 1973 slaying

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 02, 2013 1:55 PM
Former Chilean military officials held in singer's 1973 slaying

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - At least four former military officials were detained in Chile on Wednesday for their alleged role in the slaying of singer-songwriter Victor Jara during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

Jara was killed days after the coup that ousted left-leaning President Salvador Allende, and his death became a symbol of the political violence and human rights abuses that ravaged Latin America in the 1970s.

Chilean prosecutors have accused two former lieutenants, Hugo Sanchez and Pedro Barrientos, of fatally shooting Jara and named six others as accomplices in the 1973 case.

Sanchez was detained on Wednesday after surrendering to police, the judge in the case said. An extradition request will be made for Barrientos, who lives in the United States.

Three other men, accused of being accomplices in Jara's killing, also were being held at a military base after turning themselves in. Another suspect was expected to hand himself over to police, his lawyers said.

Jara, author of well-known songs such as "Te Recuerdo Amanda" ("I Remember You Amanda") and "El Derecho a Vivir en Paz" ("The Right to Live in Peace"), was arrested along with students and teachers at the State Technical University.

He was taken to the Chile Stadium, a sports venue that was used as a torture center in the days after the September 11, 1973, coup and is now named after Jara.

According to witnesses, he was tortured for several days - his hands battered with the butt of a revolver - before he was shot dead on September 16. His bullet-riddled body was found dumped near a cemetery three days later.

Jara's family has welcomed the eight arrest orders and hope progress in the case can spur advances in investigations of other dictatorship-era crimes.

"If Victor's case serves as an example, we're pushing forward in demanding justice for Victor with the hope that justice will follow for everyone," Jara's widow, Joan Jara, told reporters.

Jara's case has been closed several times but the investigation was revived in 2003 by Judge Juan Guzman, who also investigated Pinochet over human rights abuses.

Some 3,000 people were kidnapped and killed during Pinochet's 1973-1990 rule. Another 28,000 people were tortured during military rule, among them former President Michelle Bachelet. (Reporting by Chile newsroom; Writing by Helen Popper; Editing by Bill Trott)