Chile ex-officers detained for 1973 disappearance of French ex-priest

7th January 2014, Comments 0 comments

A judge in Chile ordered the arrest Tuesday of nine former military officers accused in the disappearance of a French former priest during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.

Judge Mario Carroza ordered the ex-air force officers held in the case of Etienne Pesle de Menil, a former cleric who went missing in 1973, during the early days of the Pinochet regime.

The priest, an activist on land reform issues in Chile, is presumed to have been killed by the Pinochet regime which took the life of thousands during its hardline reign from 1973 to 1990.

Pesle de Menil went missing on September 19, 1973 in the city of Temuco, some 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of Santiago just days after Pinochet seized power.

Documents showed that detainees were held and often tortured by a group of junior and senior officers at an air force base near Santiago

A French court in December 2010 convicted 10 Chilean officers in absentia for the torture and disappearances of Pesle de Menil and three other French nationals, but Chile's court system has refused to extradite the men.

The 10 Chilean officers were sentenced in France to prison terms ranging from 15 years to life on charges that included kidnapping, arbitrary detention, torture and barbarous acts.

In addition to the charges relating to Pesle de Menil, the men were convicted by the French justice system in the disappearances of Alphonse Chanreau, a leader of Chile's Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR); Jean-Yves Claudet-Fernandez, a MIR member; and George Klein, an advisor to leftist president Salvador Allende, who was deposed and killed in the coup that brought Pinochet to power.

More than 3,200 people were killed or "disappeared" during the 1973-1990 Pinochet dictatorship, and 28,000 were subjected to torture.

Pinochet died in December 2006 at the age of 91, without having served time in prison for those crimes.

© 2014 AFP

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