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Chile ex-Army chief admits handing child to nuns

Last Updated: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 10:22

Santiago (Chile): Chile`s former Army chief acknowledged that he handed over to nuns the child of two left-wing activists killed after the 1973 military coup.

Juan Emilio Cheyre, who now heads Chile`s electoral service, told the newspaper El Mercurio yesterday that he gave 2-year-old Ernesto Lejderman to a convent. In his first time speaking publicly about the case, he said that he was just following orders and that his conscience is clean.

"In this and every act of my life, I never hid my past or stopped assuming my responsibilities," Cheyre said. "I`ve faced even responsibilities that I felt others didn`t in the tragic history of Chile."

Lejderman, who was raised by his grandparents in Argentina, has said Cheyre shouldn`t face charges. But human rights group are calling for Cheyre to quit his electoral post.

Lejderman`s parents, Argentine citizen Bernardo Lejderman and Mexican citizen Rosario Avalos, were killed while trying to escape with their son after Gen. Augusto Pinochet`s coup.

The Pinochet dictatorship`s official version of what happened was that the couple committed suicide with dynamite. But 25 years after their deaths, a court said they were murdered by a military patrol on the outskirts of the northern city of La Serena.

Cheyre, who was then a 25-year-old lieutenant, said his superiors ordered him to take the child to a convent while they contacted his grandparents through the Argentine and Mexican embassies.

He said he has since met with the couple`s son. He said that the case is closed and that "those who were responsible were already convicted" by the Supreme Court.

Chile`s government estimates 3,095 people were killed during Pinochet`s 1973-90 dictatorship.


First Published: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 10:22
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