August 10, 2000

Italy releases Chilean suspected in 1983 slaying

                                   ROME (AP) -- Italy's Justice Ministry on Thursday set free a Chilean leftist
                  arrested last week in the 1983 slaying of a member of Chile's then-military
                  government. Italy ruled out extraditing the man for what it said was a political

                  Jaime Yovanovic Prieto had been held in a prison in the central town of Assisi
                  since Sunday at the request of the international police agency Interpol.

                  Prieto was wanted in Chile in connection with the slaying of Gen. Carol Urzua,
                  killed in an ambush by leftist guerrillas.

                  Responsibility for the killing was claimed by the now disbanded Revolutionary
                  Leftist Movement, which fought against Gen. Augusto Pinochet's 1973-90
                  military dictatorship.

                  The Italian Justice Ministry said in a statement that Prieto's alleged crime was of
                  a "political nature," and that Italy's constitution bars extradition in such cases.

                  Italy also refuses to hand over suspects when they might face the death penalty
                  in their own country, as is the case in Chile.

                  About 50 leftist activists staged a sit-in outside a Perugia prison Thursday until
                  Prieto's release from there late in the day.

                  Prieto, who lectures at a university in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was in Assisi for an
                  activists congress. He has not asked for political asylum, according to the Italian
                  Justice Ministry.

                  During Pinochet's regime, more than 3,100 people were killed for political
                  reasons, according to a Chilean government report. The figure includes more
                  than 1,000 who disappeared, their bodies never found.

                  On Tuesday, Pinochet was stripped of his parliamentary immunity, a step that
                  clears the way for his trial on human rights abuse charges.