December 28, 2000

Chilean justice turns down Italian extradition request

                  SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- Chile's chief justice turned down an Italian request
                  Thursday for the extradition of former Chilean army Gen. Manuel Contreras,
                  who was convicted of a 1975 political assassination attempt in Rome.

                  Chief Justice Hernan Alvarez did not offer an explanation for the decision.

                  Lawyers representing the Italian government did not immediately announce
                  whether they planned to appeal the decision.

                  The general was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in jail by an Italian court for
                  the attempted assassination of Bernardo Leighton, a former Chilean vice
                  president and prominent foe of the 1973-90 military regime of Gen. Augusto

                  Leighton and his wife, Anita, were shot and seriously wounded as they strolled
                  through Rome, where they lived in exile. Investigators traced the attempt to
                  Pinochet's feared secret police, known as DINA, which Contreras commanded
                  at the time.

                  Contreras is to complete a seven-year prison term next month for the 1976
                  assassination in Washington of Orlando Letelier, another prominent Pinochet
                  opponent, who was killed along with an American aide, Ronni Moffitt, when a
                  bomb blew up the car they were in. The assassination was also traced to DINA.

                  Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.