LATIN AMERICA REVIEW - CHILE: PROGRESS ON LETELIER CASE

Created: 10/4/1991

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Latin America Briefs

on LtMIkr Curl

Court Justice Banados is vigorously investigating6 murders in Washington of former Chilean Foreign Minisier Orlando Leiclicr and his sccrcury. but Army Chief Pinochet may pressure other members of the Court lo try lo prevent the prosecution of iwo military officers who reportedly dirccied the assassinations. In September. Banados indicted and hadetired former chief of the secret police General Contreras and his deputy. Brigadier General Espinoa. who is still on active duiy. In ihe Chilean judicial system, the investigating judge acts as the prosecutor, with broad powers to interview swspecis and collect evidence.cicrmmauon toomprehensive invcsugaiion and!

' soon issue further indictments against others invel vcfl r. n-

The defendants" lawyers are attemptingave the case closed on various procedural grounds. They have petitioned the Supreme Court io deny its jurisdiction over what ihcv claim shouldilitary count

ive also appealed their indictments to the Supreme Court, which ri dominated by justices appointed by Pinochet when he was President.

| at least snot theembers of the Court are opposed to uying the two military officers; the issue will be debated by one of the Coon's four chambers. Moreover, the Court historically has narrowly interpreted laws with litUe regard io civil or human rights,umber of the justices arc believed to be personally corrupt. I

In our view, Pinochet is concerned about iherial will hate on his prestige and that of ihe Army, and he may try to manipulate the outcome of the trial from behind ihe scenes. Ovcnurrung Use mdictmcnis is his best avenue for derailing the case. Under the Chilean judicial system indictments place ihe burden of proof on Ihe defendants to surmount the preponderance of evidence against them. Thus, manipulaiing the outcome of the trial would become far more difficult if the Court upholds the indictmenu. In our view, the amount of pressurens may be the deciding factor for the)unices. He isange of tools to pressure the Court members, ranging from jentle persuasion of the more eonscrvaiivt judgei io more forceful intimidation.!

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