Case of Slain Filmmaker Horman Gets Boost
Fri Mar 12, 2004
SANTIAGO, Chile - The investigation into the killing of an American filmmaker days after former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet (news - web sites) seized power in 1973 is finally making "extraordinary progress," a lawyer in the case said Friday.
Fabiola Letelier, a lawyer for Charles Horman's widow, credited a hardworking judge, a more cooperative police and U.S. documents declassified by the Clinton administration with giving the case a boost after 30 years.
"Given the way the process is progressing now we trust that by the end of this year we will have very important information toward establishing the truth," she said.
"We hope the judge, the courts, will find the truth, discover those who participated, who were responsible, and will punish them," Letelier told The Associated Press.
In Chile, judges investigate, file charges and sentence defendants.
The Horman case was the subject of the 1982 film "Missing," directed by Constantine Costa-Gavras and starring Jack Lemmon (news - web sites) and Sissy Spacek.
However it remained almost ignored in Chile until 2000, when Horman's widow came to Chile and filed a lawsuit against Pinochet.
Joyce Horman said she was acting on behalf of all victims of Pinochet's 1973-90 dictatorship. According to an official report by the civilian government that succeeded Pinochet, 3,190 people were killed for political reasons during his rule.
The first judge assigned to the case was Juan Guzman, the same magistrate who had indicted Pinochet on human rights charges and kept him under house arrest for 42 days. The Supreme Court declared the former dictator unfit to stand trial in 2002.
Under Guzman, the Horman case finally started to move, and Joyce Horman helped as she could, especially in promoting the declassification of documents in the United States.
Based on some of those documents, Guzman was authorized to submit a questionnaire to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and other retired American officials.
The 17 questions, sent to the United States through diplomatic channels, have yet to be answered, according to the lawyers.
Letelier said Friday that the documents describe "the level of communication among United States authorities" at the time of the Horman killing, "and may determine whether those officials failed to protect the lives of American citizens here."
The lawyer is a sister of Orlando Letelier, a prominent Pinochet foe who was killed when a bomb blew up his car in downtown Washington in 1976. The killing was traced to Pinochet's security services.
Fabiola Letelier declined to discuss details of the progress in the case or what she called "possible new evidence." However a former army intelligence agent was recently charged in the case, the only suspect indicted so far. Rafael Gonzalez, 65, is free on parole.
According to court papers, Horman was arrested on Sept. 17, 1973, two weeks after the bloody coup led by Pinochet, and taken to Santiago's main soccer stadium, which had been turned into a detention camp for Pinochet's suspected opponents.
His body turned up months later at a location that has not been disclosed on orders from the judge handling the case, Jorge Zepeda. It remains unclear whether he was killed there or elsewhere. His body was handed to his family who took it back home.
Letelier praised the work done by Zepeda, saying he has been able to identify the members of the army patrol that arrested Horman at his Santiago home. Zepeda succeeded Guzman in the case.
Letelier said that Zepeda has "interrogated a number of high-ranking army officers, including generals" and he is coming to a point where he may be able to reconstruct what happened.