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Father Says New Report Shows His Son Was Murdered By Nicaraguan Rebels

June 15, 1987 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ The father of an American volunteer killed in Nicaragua says a new report confirms earlier allegations that Benjamin Linder was shot point-blank in the head.

″I think it’s perfectly clear that Ben was blasted,″ Dr. David Linder said Sunday at a news conference.

The elder Linder, a pathologist retired from Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, said his 27-year-old son was immobilized by a Contra grenade and a gunshot wound in his arm before the fatal shot was fired during an attack April 28.

The younger Linder was a mechanical engineer working on a hydroelectric project in rural northern Nicaragua on behalf of the Sandinista government.

A report by forensics expert Dr. Michael Baden said Linder died of a gunshot wound in his right temple and said ″the muzzle of the weapon was less than one inch from the skin at the moment of discharge.″

Rep. Les AuCoin, D-Ore., who released Baden’s report Saturday in Washington, said he sent a copy to Secretary of State George Shultz, urging the State Department to ″upgrade its efforts to find out what happened to Benjamin Linder ...″

AuCoin has criticized the State Department’s investigation of Linder’s death, calling it a ″superficial, half-hearted″ effort.

Baden’s report was based on an autopsy conducted by Dr. Bayardo Gonzalez Vargas at the time of Linder’s death, affidavits by another doctor and a nurse who subsequently examined the body, and a color slide and photograph of Linder’s head taken 16 hours after his death.

Baden, director of the New York State Police forensic services unit, said a more accurate report would require disinterment of Linder’s body and another autopsy.

The family has no plans to exhume the body, said the father. He added that he was satisfied with Baden’s report, having drawn the same conclusions from the evidence.

″The autopsy reports on the deaths of the two Nicaraguan workers killed with Ben confirm that the Contras carried out cold-blooded acts of murder,″ Linder said. ″Pablo Rosales was wounded and then killed by a stab wound to his chest. Sergio Fernandez ... was shot in the ear. ...

″The Contras considered Ben and his co-workers to be legitimate targets, so they ambushed them,″ Linder said.

There have been several conflicting reports on the circumstances of Linder’s death. Eyewitness accounts said the three were ambushed by Contra rebels; the Contras have said Linder was caught in crossfire between a Contra patrol and a group of Sandinista soldiers.

A third report, by Dr. Franicsco Balladares, a Sandinista military surgeon who also said he examined the body, said small puncture wounds on Linder’s face indicated he may have been tortured.

However, David Linder said Sunday, ″The question is no longer, ‘What happened?’ The real question is, ’Will it happen again and what can we do about it?‴

According to Technica, a San Francisco-based organization that recruits technical and scientific workers, the number of people volunteering for Nicaraguan assignments has doubled since his son was killed, Linder said.

Linder, his wife Elisabeth, their son Jon and daughter Miriam said they are beginning a speaking tour to discuss Benjamin Linder’s death. Stops will include Seattle, Denver and Miami.