Chile court OK’s extradition in 1976 car bombing in US
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chile’s Supreme Court ruled Monday that the government can file an extradition request to the United States for two former secret police agents wanted for a 1976 car bombing in Washington that killed a former Chilean ambassador and a U.S. citizen.
In a unanimous decision, the court said the Foreign Ministry should begin the procedures needed to seek the extradition of U.S. citizen Michael Townley and Chilean Armando Fernandez Larios. They served under Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-1990 dictatorship.
The decision came after a request by Chilean Judge Mario Carroza, who specializes in human rights crimes.
The attack killed former envoy Orlando Letelier and U.S. citizen Ronni Moffitt. Moffitt’s husband, who was an aide to Letelier, was also in the car but survived the bombing on Sept. 21, 1976.
“After 40 years of the death of ... Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, we have taken a step forward in achieving justice for this horrid and cowardly crime committed just blocks from the White House,” Nicolas Pavez, a lawyer representing Chile’s Group of Families of the Politically Executed, told The Associated Press.
Declassified U.S. intelligence documents that came to light last year revealed that Pinochet directly ordered Letelier’s assassination. One document includes an assertion by the former head of Chile’s intelligence agency, Manuel Contreras, that “he authorized the assassination of Letelier” on “direct orders from Pinochet.”
In 2005, Contreras and his second in command were convicted in Letelier’s death. Contreras died last year.
Letelier had been a top official under President Salvador Allende, a Marxist who was ousted by Pinochet in a 1973 coup. Letelier was tortured and jailed, then later fled to the U.S., where he was the most influential voice against Pinochet’s dictatorship.
At the time of the bombing, Letelier was director of the Transnational Institute at the Institute for Policy Studies and Moffitt was a development associate at IPS.
Pinochet died in 2006 under house arrest without being tried on charges of illegal enrichment and human rights violations.