The New York Times
May 16, 2003

Former Chief of Secret Police Is Indicted by Judge in Chile


SANTIAGO, Chile, May 15 A retired army general who led Chile's secret police under the former dictator Augusto Pinochet was indicted today in the 1974 kidnapping of a Spanish priest who was tortured and then disappeared.

Judge Jorge Zepeda indicted Manuel Contreras, the former chief of Mr. Pinochet's feared secret police, known as DINA, charging him with arresting the priest, Antonio Llido, and taking him to a secret torture center where witnesses said he was savagely beaten.

"For this, the former members of the now defunct DINA have been indicted as authors of the crime of kidnapping," the judge said in his ruling.

Like hundreds of Chileans who went missing in the 1970's and 80's, Mr. Llido was never seen again. The suspicion is that he was killed, despite efforts at the time by the Vatican and the Spanish government to secure his release.

Mr. Contreras, now 73, was sentenced to 15 years in prison last month for the kidnapping and disappearance of a young left-wing activist in 1975. He has already served time for plotting the 1976 car-bomb murder in Washington of a Chilean diplomat, and the courts accuse him of masterminding the similar killing of a dissident army commander in Argentina.

Mr. Contreras, the highest-ranking Chilean military official convicted of human rights crimes, has denied the charges.

Eight other top DINA members were also indicted in the case of Mr. Llido, who was accused of helping a rebel group.

The priest's disappearance was crucial to Spain's efforts in the late 1990's to prosecute Mr. Pinochet for rights abuses.