Chile sends 53 former Pinochet agents to prison

SANTIAGO – A Chilean judge has convicted 53 former agents of the Directorate of National Intelligence (DINA), the secret police during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, for participating in the kidnapping and disappearance of seven communist leaders and the murder of the former Communist Party chief Victor Diaz.

Media reports on Tuesday said that the Minister of the Court of Appeals of Santiago for human rights cases, Miguel Vazquez Plaza, imposed sentences of up to 20 years on the former agents in what is known as the Conferencia Street 1 case.

Authorities say agents of the National Intelligence Directorate lured the communists to a residence in 1976 and then took them to a notorious prison where they were tortured.

The maximum sentence was for the former agent Ricardo Victor Lawrence Mires, who got 20 years in prison as the author of eight charges of kidnapping and 15 years as the co-murderer of Victor Diaz Lopez, who was killed in January 1977.

Diaz is said to have been held for eight months until officials determined he had no information to give, and was then asphyxiated and his body thrown into the ocean.

The other victims were Mario Jaime Zamorano Donoso, Onofre Jorge Muñoz Poutays, Uldarico Donaire Cortez, Jaime Patricio Donato Avendaño, Elisa del Carmen Escobar Cepeda, Lenin Adan Diaz Silva and Eliana Marina Espinoza Fernandez.

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For their part, the former agents Carlos Jose Leonardo Lopez Tapia and Miguel Krassnoff Martchenko were sentenced to 20 years, while the other sentences range from 15 to three years in prison, while on the civil level, the State of Chile was sentenced to compensate the relatives of the victims for a total of 3.46 billion pesos (just over US$5.164 million).

Chile’s dictatorship ended in 1990 and Pinochet died in 2006 without ever being punished for human rights abuses committed during his rule.

During the 1973-90 dictatorship, an estimated 3,200 people were murdered and another 28,000 tortured by the state.