(IPS) SANTIAGO --
claims of human rights abuses committed by the 1973-90 dictatorship in Chile moved nearer to closure last week with the prosecution of a former secret police chief and confessions by a former U.S. intelligence agent.
A Chilean court prosecuted a former head of the military dictatorship's secret police for the 1986 murder of a journalist, while a judge in Argentina is considering summoning former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in connection with the 1974 murder of his predecessor.
In the latest development, a Chilean appeals court is considering whether to lift the immunity from prosecution Pinochet enjoys as life-senator.
Chilean Judge Dobra Lusic issued an arrest warrant May 10 for Gen. Humberto Gordon and other former National Intelligence Center (CNI) agents accused of kidnapping and killing reporter Josr Carrasco on September 8, 1986 after a failed attempt by an insurgent group on Pinochet's life.
Former U.S. intelligence agent Michael Townley, meanwhile, confessed to killing Gen. Carlos Prats, who preceded Pinochet as army chief under the government of socialist president Salvador Allende (1971-73), overthrown in the 1973 coup.
Prats and his wife were killed in a 1974 bomb attack while in exile in Buenos Aires.
Townley's confessions before Argentine Judge Maria Servini de Cubria implicated Pinochet and other leaders of Chile's de facto regime in the assassination of Prats.
Townley said the orders to kill Prats came from Manuel Contreras, then-head of the National Intelligence Office (DINA), the secret police that was later dissolved and replaced by the CNI.
Judge Servini de Cubria did not rule out the possibility of summoning Pinochet to testify in the case, if she established that the Chilean security forces were involved in the assassination of Prats.
The former dictator, who is facing around 100 lawsuits in Chile in connection with human rights violations, is to name an attorney to represent him in Argentina, according to the lawyer for the plaintiffs Pamela Pereira, who added that "the Prats family and office of the public prosecutor have asked that he be charged."
Chilean President Ricardo Lagos said that "if things happened as Townley says, we must ponder on what to do to keep them from ever happening again in Chile."
Lagos, a socialist who took office in March at the head of the center-left governing Coalition for Democracy, said the Prats assassination should be solved "for the good of the country."
Contreras, who is in prison for the 1976 assassination of Allende's foreign and defence minister Orlando Letelier in Washington, said Townley's statements were false, and were simply designed to "cover up his own crimes and protect the intellectual authors" of the murder.
The former head of DINA cited a document revealing that Venezuelan agents met in May 1976 with agents of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as well as members of Cuban anti-Castro groups, in the Dominican Republic to plan Letelier's murder.
Townley took part in that meeting, said Contreras.
"I never met Townley, and he was never a DINA agent. He was a CIA agent," said Contreras, who denied participating in the assassination, which he said was planned and carried out by the CIA.
Judge Servini de Cubria will visit Chile in the next few days to take testimony from several individuals implicated in the Prats murder.
The murdered general's daughter Sofia Prats has evidence implicating Pinochet's secret police in the assassination, and asked the Chilean justice ministry to expedite the legal proceedings in order to clarify the murder of her parents.
She also accused the Chilean foreign ministry, army brass and police of failing to respond to the Argentine court's consultations on the case.
The identity of another suspect in the murder of Prats and his wife, reportedly a former senior Chilean army officer, is soon to be revealed.
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