[News] Former Chilean military officers charged in 1973 murder of singer Víctor Jara

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jul 24 12:40:28 EDT 2015


  Former Chilean military officers charged in 1973 murder of singer
  Víctor Jara

Jonathan Watts

Forty-two years after the Chilean military murdered the poet and 
musician Víctor Jara, ten of the alleged perpetrators have finally been 
called to face justice after a judge announced charges against a group 
of former officers.

Move made to extradite alleged killer of Victor Jara from United States, 
40 years after bloody coup

Four of the suspects immediately handed themselves in and other arrests 
were expected to follow.

Jara – who was also a folk singer, theatre director and communist party 
member - was taken prisoner during the coup by General Augusto Pinochet 
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/pinochet> in September 1973.

Military officers tortured him, broke his wrists and hands, played 
Russian roulette with him and then on 16 September executed him with 44 

He remains arguably the best-known victim of the coup, but there are 
many other outstanding cases.

According to Chile’s truth and justice commission, 3,095 people were 
killed during the 1973-90 Pinochet dictatorship, including about 1,000 
who “disappeared”. Bodies are still being found today.

Judge Miguel Vázquez Plaza also indicted several of the officers in the 
kidnapping and murder of former prison director Littre Quiroga Carvajal. 
Like Jara, he was held prisoner at the national stadium in Santiago, 
then singled out and taken into the dressing rooms where he was tortured 
and executed.

This step in the legal process is more advanced than a simple charge. 
The next stage will be a trial on charges arising from both cases, which 
will probably take place around the end of this year or early next year.

Jara’s widow, Joan Turner Jara, originally from Britain, called the 
charges “a message of hope” but said much work still needed to be done 
to secure justice for her husband and other victims of the Pinochet 

“If Víctor’s case serves as an example, we’re pushing forward in 
demanding justice for Víctor with the hope that justice will follow for 
everyone,” she told reporters.

Others involved in the long struggle to hold the military accountable 
said the judge’s announcement was an important step forward.

“These are important advances that are also healing in terms of the 
psychological and moral [wellbeing] of family members. But it is also 
healing for society. We want a society built upon truth and justice,” 
said Alicia Lira, president of AFEP, a support group for relatives of 
political prisoners executed during the dictatorship.

Human Rights lawyer Nelson Caucoto said the courts were moving closer to 
a judgment in the Jara case, and pointed to progress recently made in 
another emblematic human rights case, that of activists Rodrigo Rojas 
and Carmen Gloria Quintana, who were burned alive by military officers 
in 1986.

Seven soldiers allegedly set fire to Carmen Gloria Quintana and Rodrigo 
Rojas, who died from burns, for documenting protest against dictator 
Augusto Pinochet

Earlier this week, a judge ordered the arrest of seven army officers for 
their role in the attack 
in which Rojas and Quintana were drenched in petrol, set alight and then 
left for dead. Rojas died from his injuries, and Quintana was severely 

“These are cases that are burned into Chile’s historical memory,” said 
Caucoto in a telephone interview with the Guardian. “They are crimes 
committed during a dictatorship and supposedly to never be solved. Now, 
the accused will be planning their defense and this year we may have 

The Chilean courts are not the only setting for the long struggle for 
accountability. In 2013, Joan Jara and her daughters Amanda and Manuela 
filed a civil lawsuit in the US for torture and extrajudicial killing 
against former lieutenant Pedro Barrientos Nuñez, who fled Chile 
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/chile> in 1989.

Barrientos, who has US citizenship through marriage 
is alleged to have played Russian roulette with Jara before ordering his 
troups to open fire. Attempts to extradite him to Santiago have so far 
proved unsuccessful, but the Jara family’s lawyers are hopeful about the 
prospects of taking him to court in the US.

“We are gearing up for a trial. I am gathering evidence and interviewing 
[former] members of the Chilean military,” said Almudena Bernabéu, a 
human rights attorney with San Francisco-based Center for Justice and 
Accountability (CJA).

“Barrientos denies he was physically at the stadium [where Jara was 
shot] but the conscripts say he was there and was in the room when Jara 
was shot,” said Bernabéu who filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of Jara’s 
wife Joan and the folk singer’s two daughters, Amanda and Manuela.

Barrientos was not included in the latest list of indictments in Chile 
because prosecutors wanted to prevent the case being held up by his 
attempts to resist extradition from the US. He may be added to the case 
later if he is eventually returned to his homeland.

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