Latin America & Caribbean

Chile secret agents charged over 1976 diplomat murder

Archive picture of Carmelo Soria
Image caption Spanish diplomat Carmelo Soria was found dead in a canal in Chile in 1976

A Spanish judge has indicted seven former members of the Chilean secret police for their alleged role in the kidnapping and murder of a Spanish diplomat during Chile's military rule.

The judge also ordered international arrest warrants for the seven accused.

UN diplomat Carmelo Soria was working in Chile when he was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in 1976.

He is one of about 3,000 people to have been killed during Gen Augusto Pinochet's rule from 1973 to 1990.

Judge Pablo Ruz charged six Chileans and one US citizen, all of whom worked for Gen Augusto Pinochet's secret police force, with genocide, murder and kidnapping.

'Drugged and strangled'

Those charged include Juan Contreras, the former director of the secret police, Dina. Contreras is currently serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity in Chile.

Also indicted was US citizen Michael Townley. Townley worked for the Dina in Chile, from where he was extradited to the United States in 1978.

He confessed to and was sentenced for his involvement in the 1976 murder of the Chilean ambassador to the US, Orlando Letelier, and his assistant.

He is reportedly living in the US under a witness protection programme.

The remaining indictees are all former Dina agents.

Judge Ruz said two of them stopped Carmelo Soria, who worked for the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, as he was driving to his home in the capital, Santiago.

The judge said two of the indicted agents detained Mr Soria, saying he had committed a traffic infraction.

'Not effective'

They took Mr Soria to Townley's apartment, where he was questioned and tortured, according to Judge Ruz.

The agents apparently suspected Mr Soria of having links to Chile's communist party.

Judge Ruz said the agents forced Soria to get drunk, either by forcing him to drink alcohol or by injecting it into his bloodstream.

He was then strangled, his body placed in his car, and the car driven into a canal, Judge Ruz said.

His body was pulled from the canal two days later. The Chilean authorities said Mr Soria had driven the car into the canal drunk.

Months later, a Washington Post investigation showed his death had been the result of torture, but Chile's military authorities refused to open another investigation.

The current case was brought by Spain's President Allende Foundation and taken up by Judge Ruz after another Spanish judge ruled that the investigation into the alleged crimes against Mr Soria "had not been effective" in Chile.

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