Chile jails 14 officers for death of Pinochet henchman

Chile`s Supreme Court jailed a group of 14 Uruguayan and Chilean army officers Tuesday for kidnapping and killing a top agent of late dictator Augusto Pinochet`s regime in order to silence him.

Santiago: Chile`s Supreme Court jailed a group of 14 Uruguayan and Chilean army officers Tuesday for kidnapping and killing a top agent of late dictator Augusto Pinochet`s regime in order to silence him.

The case delved into the murky death of secret police agent Eugenio Berrios, a chemist who oversaw the production of sarin gas and other chemical weapons for the Pinochet regime (1973-1990) to use against its opponents.

After Pinochet stepped down, Berrios fled to Uruguay, where he was found dead on a beach with bullet wounds to the head in 1995.

The court found the convicted officers collaborated on a plan to eliminate Berrios, whom they apparently feared would testify on some of the darkest secrets of a dictatorship that killed or "disappeared" more than 3,000 people and tortured some 38,000.

His killing is believed to be one of the last missions carried out under Operation Condor, a joint program launched in the 1970s by the right-wing dictatorships of South America to assassinate their opponents and stamp out dissent.

The Supreme Court upheld a lower court`s 2010 sentences for the three retired Uruguayan officers and 11 Chileans. The sentences range from five to 20 years.

Chilean ex-military prosecutor Fernando Torres Silva was sentenced to 10 years for organizing the conspiracy.

The Uruguayan officers were extradited to Chile in April 2006 and will serve their sentences at a military prison outside Santiago.

Berrios fled to Uruguay in 1991 after being called to testify on the murder of former Chilean foreign and defense minister Orlando Letelier in a car bombing in Washington in 1976.

"Berrios was an extraordinarily important figure to shed light on cases of human rights violations during the dictatorship," Letelier`s sister, lawyer Fabiola Letelier, told AFP after the verdict.

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