SANTIAGO, Chile – A Chilean court on Wednesday asked the United States to extradite a former Chilean military officer accused in the 1973 killing of a folk singer in the coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power.
Pedro Pablo Barrientos Núñez, a retired colonel, has been accused of taking part in the killing of musician Victor Jara on Sept. 16, 1973, as part of the putsch that brought the right-wing general to power.
On Wednesday, the second chamber of the Chilean Supreme Court asked Washington to hand over Barrientos Núñez be tried for “voluntary manslaughter.”
Besides being a singer, Jara was a leftist political activist. Immediately after the 1973 coup, he was among many Chileans who were taken to a football stadium where they were tortured and executed. Jara was shot 44 times.
This is the first time a Chilean court has sought to prosecute any suspects in the killing of the pacifist singer – a crime that became emblematic of the bloody Pinochet dictatorship that left more than 3,000 people dead.
The court decision to seek the extradition of Barrientos Núñez, who is believed to live in Florida, was unanimous.
It classifies the killing as a crime against humanity and asserts the “absolute” necessity of prosecuting the perpetrators.
The only remaining formality is for the foreign ministry to send the U.S. a written request for the extradition. The two countries have a bilateral extradition treaty.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Nelson Caucoto, welcomed the court decision, saying, “this resolution responds to the expectations we had founded.”
Caucoto told reporters he expected the U.S. to “give the green light” to the investigation.
But Barrientos Núñez has told a Chilean television channel that he had nothing to do with the crime.
“I don’t have to face justice, because I didn’t kill anyone,” he said. “I’ve never been to Chile, I don’t know it, and I didn’t know who the singer Jara was at the time.”
In late December, a Chilean judge ordered the arrest of eight former military officials and charged them in Jara’s death as direct participants or accomplices.
Barrientos Núñez is the only one of those eight who lives outside Chile.