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Victor Jara: Senior Pinochet aide to face civil suit over Chilean folk hero killing

Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nuñez folk is accusd of the torture and murder of the folk and activist Victor Jara in 1973

Andrew Buncombe
Monday 13 June 2016 02:58 BST
Members of the 'Former Political Prisoners of the National Stadium' stand next to pictures in a room at the National Stadium that served as a jail for prisoners during the killings
Members of the 'Former Political Prisoners of the National Stadium' stand next to pictures in a room at the National Stadium that served as a jail for prisoners during the killings (GETTY)

It has been more than 40 years since Joan Jara watched as her husband left their home - never to see him alive again.

The Chilean folk singer and activist Victor Jara was one of thousands who were killed in the coup that was launched by General Augusto Pinochet and his military colleagues.

Now, 43 year on, 88-year-old Mrs Jara, who is British, is hoping she and her daughters are set to see justice for the man who was an inspiration not only to his countrymen but to the likes of Bruce Springsteen, U2, Joan Baez and The Clash. On Monday, Ms Jara and others will start to give evidence against a former senior aide to the dictator who moved to Florida and who has been accused in a civil suit of the torture and murder of the folk singer. The officer, Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nuñez, 67, from Deltona, has denied the allegations.

“The last time I saw my husband, we were sitting in our living room, listening to the radio as a brutal military dictatorship took over Chile,” Mrs Jara said in a statement.

“More than forty years later, my daughters and I are still seeking justice. The importance of this trial does not end with my family, but it extends to all who have spent so many decades searching for answers about their loved ones who were tortured, disappeared, or killed at the hand of the Pinochet regime.”

During the dictatorship the National Stadium was transformed into a detention and torture centre, housing over 20 thousand prisoners including men, women, children (GETTY)

The trial is expected to uncover new information about the coup that resulted in the death of thousands of people. There could also be uncomfortable testimony for the governments of the US and Britain, which both supported the Pinochet regime.

The lawsuit against Mr Barrientos is being brought by the San Francisco-based Centre for Justice and Accountability (CJA) whose lawyers said it will bring evidence to show Mr Barrientos was responsible for the torture and execution of Mr Jara during the mass detention of thousands of intellectuals, political leaders and perceived political supporters of the Allende government at Chile Stadium immediately after the coup in September 1973.

General Pinochet (left), with defense minister, Patricio Carvajal, shortly after the coup that killed President Allende. (GETTY)

“The message is that if we are going to live under the rule of law, those who engage in heinous crimes must be brought to justice, either at the time or 40 years later,” Dixon Osburn, executive director of the CJA told The Independent.

The case against Mr Barrientos will be presented by lawyers from Chadbourne and Parke, who said they will show evidence of the torture and summary execution of Mr Jara through the testimony of his widow, his daughters Amanda Jara and Manuela Bunster, renowned Chilean journalist Mónica González and Professor Steven Stern from the University of Wisconsin.

The stadium that, during the dictatorship, was transformed into a detention and torture centre (GETTY)

A jury will be asked to find Mr Barrientos legally responsible and to award compensatory and punitive damages.

“For the first time in any trial, the proceedings will bring a former Chilean military officer responsible for the death of Víctor Jara to justice,” said the CJA.

“The proceedings are also expected to shed light on the events that transpired at Chile Stadium in the first days of the coup in 1973. CJA’s case will be an important step towards justice for the victims of Chile Stadium and their families.”

The case against Mr Barrientos is taking place alongside a separate criminal prosecution in Chile of several other former officials accused over the death of Mr Jara. Last year, charges were brought against ten former officials.

The singer’s widow added: “We are so grateful to those who have offered their support throughout this process. As you can imagine, this moment, this trial, stirs so many thoughts and memories. My daughters and I are going to focus our energy on the trial itself.”

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