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News Chat

Joyce Horman on the death of Charles Horman in Chile

June 18, 2000
Web posted at: 12:43 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- In 1973, the socialist government of Salvador Allende in Santiago, Chile was overthrown in a violent coup d'etat. As the military consolidated control, thousands were rounded up. During its seventeen-year rule, the military junta, headed by General Augusto Pinochet, executed more than three thousand people -- over a thousand of them in the first few weeks. One of those arrested and killed was American Charles Horman.

Over a quarter of a century later, his widow, Joyce Horman, is still fighting to uncover the full story of his death. She believes the answers may be buried in documents held by the U.S. government. The story of Joyce and Ed Horman's search for Charles became the basis for the 1982 movie "Missing."

Chat Moderator: Welcome to CNN's chat room, Joyce Horman.

Joyce Horman: I'd like to welcome everyone who is interested in asking a question about the program that was just aired. I'm very pleased to answer any questions.

Chat Moderator: What reaction did officials have to the movie "Missing," which was based on events surrounding the murder of your husband?

Joyce Horman: Three of the officials that were portrayed in the movie filed a suit against the movie and the book. Those three officials were the U.S. Consul, Fred Purdy, who you just heard in the show, Ambassador Nathaniel Davis from the U.S., and the head of the U.S. military group, Ray Davis. Their $150 million suit was thrown out of court. It was dismissed. They lost the suit.

Question from JrTyD: Joyce, what specific evidence do you have of Pinochet's involvement in your husband's death?

Joyce Horman: We are in the process of digging for the details, and we believe that the hierarchy of command that was present in the stadium reported directly to Augusto Pinochet. We do not have the final proof of that, however.

Chat Moderator: When did you first suspect that the U.S. government had been involved?

Joyce Horman: We believed, early on, that my husband's death deserved investigation in the United States. We believed that U.S. officials had information that they could give us about how Charles died. We did not go to court, however, until Rafael Gonzalez gave us an affidavit and testified to reporters that he was in the room, in General Lutz' office, when it was decided that Charles had to be killed because he knew too much. And Rafael Gonzalez believed that there was an American official in the room as well.

Chat Moderator: Have officials tried to discredit Gonzalez and his story?

Joyce Horman: I think that, even on the program tonight, we heard that U.S. officials have tried to discredit Gonzalez' story.

Question from JrTyD: Joyce, what did your husband know that got him killed? Do you have that information now, or is it lost because of his death?

Joyce Horman: Basically, what Charles encountered in Vi_a del Mar was a group of American military personnel that were boasting about the smooth operation of the coup, and taking credit for it. They were a covert operation, not officially authorized by the United States. They were covertly sent there under a Nixon and Kissinger order. That's what we believe.

This information would have upset the relationship of the United States government to the government of Chile, at a time when the Chileans were looking for official recognition for their new group in power. The death of one or two Americans would have disrupted the United Statesf support for Pinochet's consolidation of power. That's what we believe.

Comment from Hi: Hello, Joyce, my name is Ed Renz and I served with your husband in the New York Air National Guard in Roslyn. I applaud your efforts to seek the truth, because Charlie would have wanted that.

Joyce Horman: Ed, thank you very much. I just love hearing from people who knew Charles, and knew what kind of integrity he represents.

Question from Di: Do you believe that, after all these years, there is a possibility that proof of U.S. involvement exists? And, if so, do you believe that the U.S. government is any more likely to accept responsibility for its prior actions now than it was under prior administrations?

Joyce Horman: Good question. I do believe that there are people in the Clinton administration that understand the gravity of the crimes committed by Pinochet. They would also like to get to the truth of this story, whether it implicates U.S. officials or not. The truth deserves to come out.

Question from AnnD-CNN: Twenty-five years is a long time. Do you feel you are closer to finding the truth?

Joyce Horman: I believe that this set of players -- in other words, the Lagos administration in Chile and the Clinton administration in the United States -- along with the fact that Pinochet was held under arrest for over a year, is vital. That, coupled with the Chile declassification of documents occurring, is the closest set of circumstances that we have thus far encountered that might present the truth.

Question from Hope: Joyce, do any of the documents deal with surveillance of Americans in Chile before the coup?

Joyce Horman: Not to my knowledge.

Question from JrTyD: Joyce, who is helping you dig out this information?

Joyce Horman: There are a number of friends, lawyers that we've worked with, certainly Peter Kornbluh whom you saw on the interview, and others.

Question from Sunny1-CNN: Joyce, what kind of assistance did you get from the U.S. Embassy when you went to there for help?

Joyce Horman: As I mentioned in the interview, I was denied asylum when I asked for it. They asked me very specific questions about Charles, his activities, who his American friends and acquaintances were and who else he knew in Chile. When I asked Ambassador Davis to go to the stadium to look for Charles, he said, "What do you want me to do? Look under all the bleachers?" Remember, all the other ambassadors were going frequently and seriously to look in the stadium, to demand entrance to look for their nationals.

Our embassy did not want to disrupt or inconvenience the new junta. They were obviously not there to press for their nationals. I found their attitude to be quite unhelpful. It was clear that they were not giving this very much of a priority. In fact, Purdy got angry when I was speaking to him, and said he missed his baby's birthday. I thought that was pretty outrageous, when the lives of American citizens were hanging in the balance.

Question from Jim: I know Chileans in the U.S. and Chileans in Chile. Why is it that the Chileans in the U.S. feel so much more strongly about your loss than the Chileans in Chile?

Joyce Horman: I think thatfs because the Chileans in the U.S. are very likely to be refugees themselves from human rights abuses and from the criminal acts of the Pinochet junta. They are more likely to be sympathetic with our case because it's like their own. There are many Chileans in Chile who are very supportive of our case, who have also suffered, at the hands of the Pinochet junta, human rights violations and other criminal acts.

Question from Di: Have you received any apologies or support from U.S. officials in the past 25 years regarding the treatment you received in Chile?

Joyce Horman: I've never received an apology, and I have to say that the first step toward supporting our quest for the truth has come just recently from the State Department. They have filed an official request to the government of Chile asking them to please investigate and explain the death of Charles Horman in 1973.

Other support we've been getting from the Clinton administration is that the State Department has been active and aggressive in getting documents released, relating to the abuse of human rights in Chile.

Question from AnnD-CNN: Do you feel that the U.S. Embassy knew what happened to your husband when you went to them?

Joyce Horman: I went to them as soon as I learned that my husband was in the hands of the Chileans. It was Mr. Kessler who suggested that they were aware, very early on, that Charles Horman had been killed in the stadium. They did not tell us that they knew, before Edmund Horman came down to Chile, that Charles Horman was dead. They did not tell us.

Chat Moderator: After contacting the British Home Secretary regarding the extradition of Pinochet, did you receive a direct response?

Joyce Horman: Yes, I did.

Comment from Hope: I was in political trouble in 1970 before the election and went to Purdy. He sat at his desk and laughed at me and another American friend.

Joyce Horman: That certainly doesn't contradict our description of his behavior toward American citizens in Chile asking for help.

Question from Jim: Do you think that Chile will ever do anything about Pinochet?

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Joyce Horman: They have recently stripped Pinochet of his senatorial immunity. The next step is for that immunity to be considered by the Chilean Supreme Court. So far, the courts are doing the right thing, and I fully expect them to strip Pinochet of his immunity definitively, in the near future.

Chat Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts for us?

Joyce Horman: I would like to thank everyone who has participated in the chat room and who watched the show tonight, everyone who understands our quest for the truth. I welcome everyone's support for that democratic endeavor.

Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us tonight, Joyce Horman.

Joyce Horman: Good wishes to everyone. Thank you.

Joyce Horman joined the CNN/TIME Chat by phone from New York. CNN provided a typist for Mrs. Horman. The above is an edited transcript of the chat.

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