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Charges brought in Chilean singer's death, 39 years later

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
December 29, 2012 -- Updated 1556 GMT (2356 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Victor Jara was arrested by the military and found dead days later
  • The arrest and killing happened in September 1973
  • A judge on Friday charged eight former officers with the killing
  • Jara was an outspoken leftist and famous singer-songwriter

(CNN) -- A Chilean judge has charged eight former military officers in the 1973 killing of Victor Jara, a famed leftist singer-songwriter who was among the first victims of the country's military dictatorship.

Jara, a communist sympathizer and cultural ambassador for socialist President Salvador Allende, was detained immediately after a September 11, 1973, military coup. His body, with signs of torture and 44 bullet wounds, was found days later in an abandoned field.

His is considered one of the most emblematic deaths of the political repression that followed the coup.

Judge Miguel Vazquez said charges were warranted 39 years after the killing because the court had evidence that former officers Pedro Barrientos and Hugo Sanchez carried out the killing.

Vazquez requested an international arrest order for Barrientos, who has been living in Florida since the early 1990s.

Six others are charged as accomplices in the killing: Roberto Souper, Raul Jofre, Edwin Dimter, Nelson Hasse, Luis Bethke and Jorge Smith.

"Victor Jara was a symbol, he was a cultural, political and social icon," Nelson Caucoto, a human rights attorney representing the singer's family, told CNN Chile. "He was the embodiment of a process of change headed by President Allende."

The military leaders who took power from Allende feared Jara. One military official once said the folk singer "does more damage with some songs than with 100 machine guns," he said.

Caucoto accused military officials of not divulging pertinent information about the officers who worked at Estadio Chile, the stadium converted into a detention center where Jara was killed. The attorney called for former members of the military who worked at the stadium to come forward with information.

"The truth begins to emerge despite the passage of time," he said.

In 2003, to mark the 30th observance of Jara's death, Estadio Chile was renamed Victor Jara National Stadium.

Jara, who was also a professor at Chile's State Technical University, remained holed up on campus after the coup, the court said. He was among those arrested by the military after a raid of university buildings.

His military captors recognized him, separated him from the others and subjected him to interrogations where he was beaten, the court said.

On September 16, 1973, the prisoners at the stadium were transferred elsewhere, except for Jara and one other, who were killed, the court said.

Residents found the bodies of Jara and two others in a lot near a cemetery.

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