Chile: Victor Jara widow asks for US extradition
The widow of folk singer Victor Jara called on the U.S. government Wednesday to extradite a retired Chilean military official charged with murdering her husband during Chile's 1973 coup.
Pedro Barrientos Nunez now lives in Florida and has denied any role in Jara's killing, long remembered as one of the Chilean dictatorship's most brutal crimes.
Joan Turner Jara called the charges against Barrientos and seven other ex-military officers "a message of hope," not only that her husband's murder could be solved, but that many other families may find justice as well. More than 3,000 people were slain during the 1973-90 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and most of those crimes remain unsolved.
Investigating Judge Miguel Vazquez, who charged the men last week, has issued an arrest order for Barrientos and wants Chile's government to file a formal extradition request to the U.S. so that he faces trial along with the others.
Turner and her daughters, Manuela and Amanda, urged Chile's Supreme Court to formally request Barrientos' extradition from the United States.
The Jara family spoke next to a statue of Victor Jara inside the stadium where the folk singer and thousands of other leftists were detained during the first days of the coup.
Jara was a popular singer, theater director and university professor who was rounded up with his students and tortured inside Estadio Chile, which has since been renamed Estadio Victor Jara.
The hands he used to play guitar were smashed, his head was beaten and his body shot with at least 44 bullets as a warning to those who challenged Pinochet's authority.
But his wife, a British dancer, overcame the fear. For years she encouraged stadium survivors to provide testimony and evidence to the courts. Jara's body was exhumed for a proper autopsy in 2009, and last week the investigative judge announced charges against the eight former military officials.
The judge said last week that his main difficulty has been getting former military officers to talk.
The Jara family's lawyer, Nelson Caucoto, also complained about this Wednesday, saying that Chile's military still denies having any information about which officers were assigned to the stadium in September 1973.
But Caucoto added that many former prisoners and army conscripts did share their memories, including a former draftee named Jose Paredes, who was charged years ago with Jara's murder even though he denied firing the machine gun into the singer's body.
Paredes told The Associated Press in 2009 that he gave information on officers, and in the end the judge charged eight former lieutenants. Barrientos and Hugo Sanchez Marmonti are accused of murdering Jara. Charged as accomplices are Roberto Souper Onfray, Raul Jofre Gonzalez, Edwin Dimter Bianchi, Nelson Haase Mazzei, Ernesto Bethke Wulf and Jorge Eduardo Smith Gumucio.
Four of the six defendants living in Chile turned themselves in Wednesday, and were being held at a special prison for military personnel charged as human rights violators. When Marmonti was taken before the judge Wednesday, he firmly said "No" when reporters shouted questions asking if he was guilty.
Barrientos and Dimter have both been accused by human rights activists over the years of being "The Prince," a sadistic blond-haired officer who survivors said walked around with a whip in the stadium, taunting and torturing prisoners. Both men have denied this, and the judge has not released any information on that accusation.
Associated Press writers Michael Warren in Buenos Aires and Eva Vergara in Santiago contributed to this report.