Pinochet’s secret agent working as nanny in Australia

SYDNEY – Pressure is mounting on the Australian government to grant a Chilean extradition request for a Sydney woman accused of involvement in kidnapping, torture and murder as an agent of former military dictator Augusto Pinochet’s secret police.

Adriana Rivas, a long-time Australian resident recently working as a nanny, has been charged with seven counts of “aggravated kidnapping” from her time with Direccion de Inteligenca Nacional (DINA) and is the subject of a campaign by members of the Chilean community in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Rivas was previously apprehended on a visit to Chile but escaped while on bail. She is now considered a fugitive by Chilean authorities and the country’s Supreme Court publicly sought her extradition in January 2014 so she could stand trial, most notably for a charge concerning her alleged involvement in the disappearance and murder of a Communist Party leader in 1976.

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Upon receiving the request, the Australian government asked for further information. Since January this year, a community campaign backed by various federal MPs has ramped up, calling for the government to grant the request urgently.

Canberra saw a protest in 2014, calling for the extradition of Adriana Rivas.

Australian Labor MP Julian Hill wrote to Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan this week, calling for the “fugitive from justice” to be dealt with as a matter of priority. In 2014, the country’s shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus presented a petition from approximately 600 members of the Chilean community calling for the extradition.

To be extradited from Australia, “dual criminality” – the existence of similar applicable laws in both countries – must be demonstrated. Australia’s extradition treaty with Chile requires a decision on a request as soon as possible.

During Pinochet’s 1973-1990 reign, thousands of political opponents were kidnapped, tortured and murdered. DINA operated highly secretive “extermination centers” where prisoners were raped, mutilated, electrocuted and often never seen again.

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Rivas was officially employed by DINA head General Manuel Contreras, for a time the second most powerful man in Pinochet-era Chile, who died in 2015 while serving a 500-year sentence for his offences. In recent years, witnesses and suspects have said that Rivas was actively involved in torture and kidnapping at the Simon Bolivar Barracks in Santiago.

Former DINA head Manuel Contreras, with Adriana Rivas.

In a 2014 interview with Australia’s SBS network, Rivas denied the accusations but expressed support for Contreras and described torture as “necessary” in context to break people’s silence “because communists are closed-minded”.

“And do you think that the US does not do the same? The whole world does it. Silent, underground, but they do it. This is the only way to break the people. Because psychologically, there is no method. There isn´t an injection – like in the movies – to make you tell the truth. It doesn’t exist,” she said.

Rivas’ last known location is said to have been a public housing unit in Bondi. She is still believed to be in Sydney but, since early 2016, her specific whereabouts are not known publicly.