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Chilean judge charges former U.S. military officer in 1973 deaths

November 29, 2011 |  5:39 pm

Chile's military leaders Sept. 18, 1973
REPORTING FROM SANTIAGO, CHILE, AND BOGOTA, COLOMBIA -- A Chilean judge is seeking the extradition of a former U.S. military officer to face murder charges in the 1973 slaying of freelance journalist and filmmaker Charles Horman, a case dramatized in the Oscar-winning film “Missing,” court sources confirmed Tuesday.

Judge Jorge Zepeda wants former U.S. Navy Capt. Ray E. Davis, whose whereabouts were not immediately clear Tuesday, to face trial in Chile for his alleged involvement in the deaths of Horman and U.S. student Frank Teruggi. The two Americans were arrested and executed by Chilean forces shortly after President Salvador Allende was overthrown in a military coup on Sept. 11, 1973.

Horman, 31, was working as a screenwriter for state-run Chile Films when military rebel forces led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet attacked the presidential palace La Moneda. Allende committed suicide that day rather than surrender.

Horman was arrested Sept. 17 and executed the next day, according to court documents. His body later was found on a Santiago street. Teruggi, 24, was killed on Sept. 22 and his body also dumped on a street in the capital. Davis then was head of the U.S. military group attached to the American Embassy in Santiago.

A recent truth commission found that 41,000 people were arrested, tortured or killed during Pinochet’s 16-year reign of terror. At least 3,200 are thought to have died.

Zepeda wrote in court documents that his investigation bore out suspicions from the outset that “there was participation [in the murders] by citizens of the same nationality.” Zepeda wrote that Davis did nothing to stop the execution of the two Americans “although he had the opportunity of doing so,” and that he is suspected of giving Pinochet officials a “list of subversive U.S. citizens in Chile.”

A former top official with Chile’s DINA intelligence agency, Gen. Pedro Espinoza, was also charged with homicide in the cases.

In documents seeking authorization of the Davis extradition, Zepeda said he received cooperation from the U.S. State Department in preparing the case.

The State Department does not comment on specific extradition matters, but the U.S. government supports a thorough investigation into the Horman and Teruggi deaths, said spokesman Will Ostick.

The 1982 film directed by Costa-Gavras and starring Jack Lemmon as Horman’s father and Sissy Spacek as his wife, won an academy award for best screenplay.


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Photo: Members of the military junta that seized power in Chile on Sept. 11, 1973, in a bloody coup against President Salvador Allende, salute during Independence Day celebrations Sept. 18, 1973. From left, air force Gen. Gustavo Leigh; army chief and coup leader Gen. Augusto Pinochet;  navy chief Adm. Jose Toribio Merino; and police director Gen. Cesar Mendoza. Credit: Associated Press