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Chile jails a retired general for 15 Pinochet-era murders

Juan Emilio Cheyre was detained this week as a formal investigation opened into his alleged involvement in the killing of 15 people during the nation's bloody dictatorship from 1973-1990.

by VICE News and Reuters
Jul 8 2016, 4:56pm

Imagen por Santiago Llanquin/AP Photo

The former head of Chile's army was detained this week as a formal investigation opened into his alleged involvement in the killing of 15 people during the first days of the nation's bloody 1973-1990 dictatorship.

Retired General Juan Emilio Cheyre was a junior military officer at the time of the 1973 military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet.

Cheyre served as head of the national army between 2002 to 2006, after the country returned to democracy, under the direction of left-wing president Michelle Bachelet. He famously announced then that a coup and humans rights violations should "never again" happen in Chile.

The general is now behind bars while a judge directs a probe into his alleged complicity in the killing of 15 people in the northern city of La Serena in October 1973, during the so-called Caravan of Death.

The Caravan of Death was a military committee that travelled around Chile by helicopter after the coup, ordering the deaths of suspected leftist opponents.

The arrest of Cheyre comes nearly two weeks after a Florida jury found former army officer Pedro Pablo Barrientos liable for the 1973 torture and murder of the political activist and folk singer Víctor Jara. The court ordered him to pay Jara's widow and daughter $28 million in damages.

Jara was arrested the day after General Pinochet took power in Chile on September 11, 1973, and taken to the infamous national stadium along with thousands of other activists. His hands were cut off before he was shot dead a few days later.

Barrientos, who was a lieutenant at the time, reportedly boasted of his role in Jara's death. He later moved to Deltona, Florida, and lived incognito until a Chilean TV crew tracked him down in 2012.

The lawsuit was possible thanks to the Torture Victim Protection Act that permits the prosecution in the US of human rights violations committed in other countries.

The US government has yet to respond to a Chilean request to extradite Barrientos dating from 2012.

Related: Survivors of Chile's Dictatorship Celebrate Death of 'Bloodthirsty' Former Spy Chief

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