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Statement by Jaime Yovanovic Prieto

1. October 2002

Draft statement by Jaime Yovanovic Prieto compiled from notes made at a consultation for the purpose of informing the minister of justice, Dr. Penuel Maduna, and the director of public prosecutions (wld) and not to be used as evidence in court proceedings.

1. I am a Chilean citizen by birth. I was born on 5 January 1948.

2. In September 1970 Mr Salvador Allende was democratically elected as the president of Chile.

3. I was a student at the time at the Catholic University in Valparaiso, Chile.

4. I campaigned for and supported the election of Mr Allende to the presidency and immediately volunteered my services to non-governmental organisations that got together to thwart any attempts by the military to overthrow our democratically elected president Allende.

5. I carried out this voluntary work with the non-governmental organisations for about 2 months as I was still a full time student at the university.

6. Three years later on 11 September 1973 president Allende was killed in a coup carried out by the military under the leadership of General Pinochet.

7. After the overthrow of our president, I joined the movement, which was established to restore the government elected by the will of the people. I became a member of MIR, the Movement of the Revolutionary Left resistance, which was opposed to the military dictatorship of General Pinochet.

8. Some two months after the coup I was detained by the military on 13 November 1973 and kept in prison until my release on 13 November 1974.

9. During my period of incarceration I was subjected to torture, which resulted in all my fingers being broken, as well as my toes and my shoulder. To this day I suffer from severe pain from the fractures sustained during my torture at the hands of the military.

10. I was tortured because I refused to divulge the names of other activists opposed to the military dictatorship.

11. I paid a heavy price for my silence but I could not give the names of the activists to the military because I knew that they would be rounded up and subjected to torture and possibly death.

12. During my incarceration I personally witnessed the torture and killing of a number of activists. It was not uncommon for activists to disappear after their arrest by the military. To this day no explanation has been given by the military for the disappearance of more than 1000 activists during the rule of the military dictatorship.

13. Upon my release I was told by the military authorities that I was …‘ideologically dangerous´ and could not be allowed to remain in Chile.

14. My father who was working in Columbia at the time made a request to the Naval Court in Valparaiso to release me into his care in Columbia. My father offered to furnish me with an air ticket for my travel to Columbia.

15. The Naval Court then authorised my expulsion to Columbia. I left Valparaiso with my ex-wife Maria Eugenia Catepillan Clares and daughter Tania Yovanovic Catepillan.

16. I returned to Chile in 1978 when the military granted me amnesty. I recall that 100 activists were granted amnesty. Our names were printed in the Chilean newspaper, Mercurio. My name was 99th on the list.

17. I returned to Chile without any difficulty. However I soon realised that my every movement was being monitored by the authorities. I was under strict surveillance.

18. All my attempts to find any sort of work were unsuccessful because I was blacklisted by the military authority.

19. After 3 weeks in Chile, I decided that I could not live under such intolerable conditions and went to Ecuador. I felt persecuted in my homeland.

20. I stayed in Ecuador until sometime in 1979. There was an economic boom in Ecuador from the sale of oil. I sold dictionaries for a living.

21. In 1979 I entered Chile clandestinely by using a passport with a false name.

22. Upon my return to Santiago, I joined the popular movement against the military.

23. As I was illegally in the country, I did not stay for long at any one address and kept on the move to avoid arrest.

24. When I was expelled to Columbia in 1973 I had only completed 4 years of study. I was therefore still unqualified as I had to finish one more year of study. I was studying law.

25. The movement in Santiago offered me a minimal stipend to live off. Part of my political activities included economic sabotage. It was however a principle of the movement not to engage in any activity that would result in the death of anyone. It was our moral high ground against the ruthless repression of the military that resulted in detention, torture, killings and disappearance of a number of Chilean civilians.

26. I used many false names to avoid arrest but I can say with certainly that I never used the name, Hugo.

27. The general who was killed on 30 August 1983 was part of the group of generals that planned the coup and carried out the assassination of President Allende.

28. The general, Carol Urzúa (deceased) held a very high position in the military junta. The deceased was number 5 in the military hierarchy. He was the military head of the Santiago region and not a civilian mayor of the city.

29. During 1983 the movement organised marches and protested every month against the illegitimate government of General Pinochet.

30. During one such march in Santiago about 3 days before his death, the general unleashed the full might of the army on the protesters. As a result of his orders about 20 civilians were killed and many more were seriously injured.

31. I heard the news of the killing of the general on the radio.

32. I can recall with certainty that the general, his chauffeur and another military aide were shot to death. They were not bombed. I saw the picture of the general´s car in the Chilean newspaper. It was intact except for the windows.

33. The Movement of the Revolutionary Left resistance (MIR) took responsibility for the killing of the general and his aides. The secretary general of MIR, Andrà©s Pascal Allende took responsibility on behalf of the organisation.

34. The news of the killing of the general was met with jubilation in the streets of Chile. It was a political act against a general who felt no remorse whatsoever in ordering the army to execute civilians in the streets of Santiago.

35. Mr Jorge Palma and 3 others were arrested and charged with the murder of the general and his aides. They were sentenced to death by the military court.

36. They appealed against the death sentence to the Supreme Court. The judges of the Supreme Court did not reach unanimity on the imposition of the death sentence and the death sentence was commuted to imprisonment.

37. Palma was eventually released and given asylum in Europe.

38. After the assassination of the general, the army sought retribution by arresting members of MIR. Many people who were suspected of being activists were summarily executed in the streets of Santiago.

39. Although not accused at the time of involvement in the general´s death, I felt my life was in danger and took refuge in the Vatican Embassy with three other individuals. We were given asylum for 83 days by the Vatican Embassy.

40. In 1984 Palma was quoted in the Chilean newspaper as saying that Hugo was involved in the political assassination of the general and that Hugo was the name used by me. I deny that I ever used the name Hugo and that I was involved in the assassination of the general. Jorge Palma later withdrew the statement which implicated me because it had been given under duress.

41. Pope John Paul II intervened on our behalf with the military authorities. The military eventually relented and we were escorted to the airport under armed military guard.

42. We were flown to Ecuador by Ecuador Airlines. I spent three weeks in prison in Ecuador while the United Nations arranged a safe haven for me.

43. A European Human Rights Organisation called CIME arranged for me to fly to Cuba via Panama. I spent 3 days in Panama.

44. I stayed in Cuba for about 8 years. I completed my studies in Cuba and have a Bachelor in Law degree from the University of Havana.

45. Sometime in 1985 I was elected as the Vice President of the Chilean Exile Committee in Cuba.

46. I also worked for the municipality in Havana on housing issues.

47. In 1990 I left Cuba for Brazil where I began my academic career teaching law initially at the University of Sao Paulo and then at other institutions as well.

48. General Pinochet stepped down in 1990. I did not return to Chile because my mother informed me that the military court in Chile considered the case against me as an open one.

49. Even though Pinochet stepped down, it was and is my belief that the military had and still has great influence in the government and administration of justice.

50. I had no faith in the military courts in Chile because Mr Jorge Palma informed the newspapers that he was forced to implicate me by the military. He informed the newspapers that he was tortured by the military to say that I was …‘Hugo´, which I deny. Any evidence against me is tainted by the illegal means used by the military investigators and prosecutors.

51. I remained in Brazil until 1999. During my stay in Brazil I obtained a Chilean passport in 1990 through the normal channels. I renewed the passport at the Chilean consulate on a number of occasions without any incident. The Chilean authorities did not attempt to extradite me from Brazil even though they knew that I was living in Brazil. The last passport given to me by the consulate in Sao Paolo was in 1999.

52. Sometime in August 2000 I attended a conference in Italy. During my stay in Italy, the Chilean authorities requested my extradition through Interpol. I was not extradited because the authorities were persuaded the crime was clearly of a political nature and because of the death penalty in Chile. I have reason to believe that the death penalty is still retained by the military courts in Chile even though it was been partly abolished.

53. During January 2002 I went to Mozambique to work as an advisor to the Director of the Law Faculty of the Eduardo Mondlane University and as a consultant in the Ministry of Agriculture.

54. Thereafter I worked as a consultant with Planact, an NGO in Johannesburg for about 2 months.

55. I believe that the military second court has requested my extradition to Chile from Italy in response to the arrest of General Pinochet by the Supreme Court in Spain. The extradition attempt was done at the request of human rights activists to account for the excesses committed under his military rule.

56. I strenuously deny that I was involved in the killings. I believe that the belated attempt to extradite me is part of the military´s strategy in Chile and is being made in order to support its propaganda campaign that Pinochet was justified in committing the atrocities for which he and his military are responsible. The offence was clearly committed with political motive. The general´s death made possible negotiations for the removal of Pinochet.