The Miami Herald
March 15, 2000
Former Pinochet military aide may be extradited to Italy
Officer convicted in slaying plot

 Herald World Staff

 SANTIAGO, Chile -- A top officer from former military president Gen. Augusto
 Pinochet's secret police has been detained here for possible extradition to Italy in
 connection with an assassination plot.

 Retired Gen. Raul Eduardo Iturriaga Neumann was being detained at a local
 regiment, Chief Justice Hernan Alvarez said after questioning him for several
 hours Tuesday.

 The decision by Chile's Supreme Court raises the possibility that Chile's courts
 could force former military officials to face justice abroad on charges of human
 rights violations during Pinochet's rule, from 1973 to 1990.

 And with U.S. officials seeking to interview unspecified Chileans, apparently
 including Iturriaga, the case also may shed light on the 1976 bombing murder of
 former Foreign Secretary Orlando Letelier and his U.S. associate Ronni Moffitt in

 In 1995, an Italian court convicted Iturriaga and Pinochet's longtime intelligence
 chief, Manuel Contreras, in absentia for their role in an attempt by a right-wing
 Italian group to assassinate former Chilean Vice President Bernardo Leighton in
 Rome on Oct. 6, 1975.

 Iturriaga was sentenced to 18 years in prison; Contreras to 20. Italy requested
 extradition last October. Contreras is serving a seven-year prison term in Chile in
 connection with the Letelier and Moffitt murders.

 Michael Townley, an American who was once an agent for the Chilean
 intelligence agency known by the acronym DINA, had accused Contreras and
 Iturriaga of being involved in attacks in the 1970s in Washington, Rome and
 Buenos Aires against Chileans who served in the administration of Socialist
 President Salvador Allende. Allende was deposed in a 1973 coup led by


 Italian prosecutors and human rights groups say Iturriaga oversaw the foreign
 operations of DINA during that time. Iturriaga has denied that role, saying his
 duties in the military government involved domestic social issues.

 Pinochet, 84, returned to Chile on March 3 from more than 16 months of house
 arrest in London, avoiding extradition to Spain, Belgium, France or Switzerland,
 all of which wanted to try him for murders and tortures of their citizens while he
 was Chile's chief executive.

 The Santiago newspaper, El Mercurio, said Chilean court officials will interview
 unidentified Chileans in relation to the Letelier case.

 A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy confirmed that unspecified ``legal requests''
 have been made to the Chilean government in connection with the Letelier case.

 Word of Iturriaga's detention was welcomed by U.S. researchers on the abuses of
 the Pinochet era.

 ``Pinochet's secret police, which answered only to him, carried out a pattern of
 international terrorist attacks which include the murder attempt on Bernardo
 Leighton in Italy. . . . Those acts have come back to haunt them,'' said Peter
 Kornbluh, director of the Chile documentation project at the National Security
 Archives in Washington.

 Chile's new president, Ricardo Lagos, said in a news conference Monday that an
 expected declassification of additional U.S. State Department documents may
 shed new light on the workings of DINA and what the U.S. Central Intelligence
 Agency knew about events in Chile.

 Iturriaga's detention in Chile would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
 But after Pinochet was detained in London in October 1998, the legal atmosphere
 has changed dramatically.

 ``The arrest of Pinochet, even without the extradition and trial, has meant the
 perception of immunity is gone,'' said Tom Blanton, who heads the National
 Security Archives.

                     Copyright 2000 Miami Herald