Journalist with a Conscience

Events that Led to the Arrest and Murder of Charles Horman

The Search

The Declassified Documents

Case History


Journalist with a Conscience

Charles Horman, born May 15, 1942 in New York City, was the only child of Edmund and Elizabeth Horman. In 1964 he graduated from Harvard University with honors in journalism. He later served in the Air Force National Guard, followed by six years with the reserve force, during which time he worked as investigative journalist for various communications media. In 1968 Charles married Joyce Hamren, and in late 1971 the young couple set out on travels to explore Latin America. The Hormans began their adventure in Mexico and continued south over land until reaching Santiago, Chile, where they settled.

In Chile, Charles undertook various projects including the production of an animated film for children in conjunction with Chilean friends. Charles also collaborated with Pueblo Films and wrote the script for a documentary film Avenue of the Americas, on the social and economic history of Chile. In early 1973 Charles, along with other United States citizens living in Santiago, assisted in editing and publication of Fuentes de Informacion sobre Norteamerica (FIN), a news bulletin that focused on social and political issues covered in the North American press. Among the other U.S. citizens who collaborated in this project was Frank Teruggi, of 24 years of age, who was arrested September 20, 1973 and executed September 22, 1973 at Santiago's National Stadium.

As investigative journalist, Charles also compiled information for a book on the assassination of Chilean Army General Rene Schneider, and had discovered facts that linked agents of the United States to the crime. In 1975 the Senate Intelligence Committee published a report which, for the first time, documented CIA involvement in the assassination for the intent of preventing Salvador allende from taking office as President.

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Events that Led to the Arrest and Murder of Charles Horman

The series of events that remain to be clarified leading to the summary execution of Charles Horman began on September 10, 1973 when Charles accompanied Terry Simon, a friend of the couple on vacation in Chile, to the coastal towns of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. Their intention was to return to Santiago the same day but the highways were blocked that night, compeling them to find lodging in Viña del Mar's Hotel Miramar.

In the early hours of September 11, 1973 the Chilean Naval fleet, which had reconnoitered with United States vessels in Operation Unitas manuvers, returned to port. The streets, provincial government offices and the telephone company were occupied by Navy personnel. The Military Junta headed by General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte declared state of siege and imposed a curfew throughout the country. Charles and Terry remained stranded in Viña del Mar, unable to return to Santiago for four days.

During their forced stay at the Hotel Miramar from September 10 to 15, 1973, Charles and Terry met several United States military officials who openly expressed satisfaction with the coup's success and insinuated at prior knowledge about the overthrow. The participation of these individuals in the events of the time forms part of the judicial investigation. On September 15, 1973, the head of the United States Military Group in Chile, Captain Ray Davis, drove Charles and Terry back to Santiago. During the two hour drive back to the capital, Davis commented that thousands had been arrested, hundreds were dead and hundreds of houses raided. In Santiago, he left them off at the United States Consulate where they hoped to find assistance to leave Chile.

The information confided in Charles and Terry in Valparaiso caused them to fear for their personal safety. Their fear grew as the radio called on Chileans to inform authorities of the presence of any suspicious foreigner. Leaflets distributed in Santiago carried inflammatory text such as, Have no pity on foreign extremists who are in Chile to kill Chileans. Citizens, be on the alert to uncover and denounce them.

Military forces arrested thousands of people in the days immediately following the coup.

On September 17, 1973 between around 5 PM, a patrol of uniformed men arrested Charles at his home. Several neighbors witnessed the arrest. One who had entered a taxi followed the military truck until it turned in at the National Stadium, converted into a massive prison camp. Neighbors observed a group of soldiers return later that night, carrying away a great many books and documents from the house. Charles' wife Joyce, who had been unable to return home before curfew, arrived the next morning to find the house in disarray with books and papers strewn on the floor, the desk thrown on its side, cushions ripped apart. Neighbors warned Joyce that military personnel had returned to the house two or three times during the night, and persuaded her to find a safer place to stay.

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The Search

Joyce Horman began the search for her husband. On September 19 she informed the Vice Consul of her husband's arrest and disappearance, while Terry Simon informed Captain Ray Davis and requested protection for Charles. Edmund Horman arrived October 3, 1973 to join the frantic search for his son.

Throughout this time he and Joyce were in constant contact with Embassy and Consulate staff, insisting that they demand that the new military government locate and release Charles. For over a month, the United States diplomatic corps responded to the Hormans' demands with bureaucratic disinterest. On the insistence of Edmund Horman, Consul Frederick Purdy and Vice Consul Dale Schaffer obtained authorization to enter the National Stadium, converted in a prisoner camp and torture center in which thousands were crowded inside. There Edmund Horman took hold of a microphone and called his son, a dramatic moment that was recreated in the film Missing, produced by Costa-Gavras.

Some 28 years later, declassified State Department documents revealed that U.S. diplomatic staff had knowledge of Charles Horman's arrest, information it withheld from the Horman family. In all likelihood, by this time, they also knew that Charles had been executed. Instead of assisting the Horman family, they chose to play with the emotions of a desperate father, orchestrating a visit to the Stadium, knowing beforehand that the effort would fail to locate the missing son.

On October 17, during a visit to the Ford Foundation, a program advisor confided to Edmund Horman that a reliable source affirmed his son had been shot at the National Stadium. Only then, on October 18, 1973 did the United States Consul acknowledge the death of Charles Horman by issuing a death certificate. The autopsy report, dated October 30, 1973, is included as evidence in the criminal suit. It states that "father and wife were advised of death in Santiago, Chile on October 18, 1973, after remains identified through fingerprints by competent officials at the Chilean Identification Department, U.S. passport B090881 unrecovered."

The autopsy report, issued by United States officials, determined: "Cause of death: multiple bullet wounds, per doctor in charge at the Public Morgue in Santiago, Chile."

But the odissey did not end here for the Horman family.

Charles Horman's remains were interred on October 18 before family members could see the body and were exhumed on January 3, 1974. Before its first burial, the lifeless body of Charles Horman lay at least two weeks without refrigeration, which rendered fingerprint identification ineffective. The family's repeated attempts to remove the body from the morgue were denied for technical reasons. Members of the United States Senate pressured their government, threatening to block authorization of arms to the Chilean military junta.

In March 1974, seven months after the events narrated here, the Horman family received a telegram from Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, informing them that the government of Chile had approved their request to sent Charles' remains to New York. The cable added that United States Embassy in Santiago required the payment of US$900 to cover transportation costs. Mr Kissinger expressed his condolences for the tragic affair. At the request of Joyce Horman, an autopsy was performed in New York on April 11, 1974 and on April 13 the body of Charles Horman was buried in Brooklyn's Greenwood Cementery.

Thus ended in tragedy the journey Charles Horman had embarked upon to experience South America and his family began travelling the long road in search of truth and justice. Neither the government of the United States nor the State of Chile ever denounced the criminal acts committed against Charles Horman before any court of law.

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The Witness

More than three years later, in January 1977, a former intelligence agent, Rafael Gonzalez, agreed to talk with the U.S. Consul and an official of the U.S. Embassy in Santiago. The former DINA agent had sought refuge in the Italian Embassy in June 1975 and lived with his family in the embassy compound since that time, unable to leave the country. Gonzalez claims to have seen Charles Horman alive outside the office of General Augusto Lutz, then head of Chilean Army Intelligence. Coronel Victor Barria Barria, Assistant Director of Army Intelligence and an unidentified official of the United States were in the office talking to Lutz. Gonzalez recalls that Gen. Lutz referred to the prisoner Horman as someone who "knew too much and had to disappear." Soldiers guarding the prisoner outside Lutz's office indicated to Gonzalez that the man in their custody was Charles Horman. In his interview with the American diplomats, a conversation which is detailed in the declassified documents, Gonzalez stated that he heard nothing more about the prisoner until March 1974. At that time, he accompanied the United States Vice Consul to the General Cemetery to assist in identification and recovery of Charles Horman's remains for repatriation to New York.

In December 2003 Judge Jorge Zepeda ordered the arraignment of Rafael Gonzalez, having reached the conclusion that Gonzalez was not just a witness but an accomplice in the arrest, interrogation and coverup of the murder of Horman.

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The Declassified Documents

The arrest in 1998 of Augusto Pinochet in London encouraged President Bill Clinton to order the declassification of "all documents that may bring to light the abuses to human rights, terrorism, and other acts of political violence committed during and prior to the era of Pinochet in Chile. More than 16,000 documents produced by the CIA, the State Department, the F.B.I. and other agencies of the U.S. government were declassified between 1999 and 2000 under the Freedom of Information Act and obtained by the National Security Archive. Among the documents relevant to the Horman case are several State Department reports prepared under pressure from the U.S. Congress.

Rudy V. Fimbres, regional director for the Inter American Affairs Agency for Bolivia and Chile, wrote the first report in August 1976. State department attorney Frederick Smith prepared the second memorandum that same year. Although the officials had limited access only to public documents or others easily obtainable from the State Department, both concluded that the United States had involvement in the death of Charles Horman, despite denials of State Department to the contrary.

A report written by Fimbres on August 25, 1976 suggests complicity between Chile and the United States.
Based on what we know, we are persuaded that the government of Chile sought Horman because he was perceived as a threat and ordered his immediate execution. The government of Chile may have believed that it could do away with this American citizen without negative fallout from the United States.

The documents also show that, prior to the arrival of Edmund Horman in Chile, an official of the U.S. Embassy had received information about Charles' execution. However, the official made no effort to confirm the veracity of the information. Neither did he bother to mention it to Edmund Horman. The same Fimbres report cited above, revealed the official's suspicions that the United States played a role in the death of Horman.
There is some circumstantial evidence to suggest US intelligence may have played an unfortunate part in Horman's death. At best it was limited to providing or confirming information that helped motivate his murder by the GOC (government of Chile)
. At worst, US intelligence was aware that the GOC saw Horman in a rather serious light and US officials did nothing to discourage the logical outcome of GOC paranoia.

The Smith report blamed the Chilean military regime in the death of Charles Horman as well as Frank Teruggi. It agreed with Fimbres that it was "hard to believe" the Pinochet regime would have executed two U.S. citizens without the assurance that the deaths would not bring "adverse effects" from Washington, D.C.

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Case History

In 1977, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR in New York City), through attorney Peter Weiss, represented the Horman family in a civil suit against former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former personnel of the United States embassy and consulate in Santiago in 1973. United States government denial to access key documents obliged plaintiffs to voluntarily withdraw their complaint.

In April 1991 the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee reached the following conclusion.
Charles Horman was executed by agents of the State outside the bounds of all legal procedure, constituting a violation of his human rights. This conviction is founded on the fact that his arrest by members of the Army and entrance into the National Stadium is sufficiently accredited and since these events, nothing else was heard from him until the learned of his death and this was produced by bullet wounds corresponding to a execution by firing squad.

In 1998 Joyce Horman became a party to the proceeding investigated by Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzon. Criminal complaint filed in Santiago Court of Appeals

On December 7, 2000 Chilean attorneys Fabiola Letelier and Sergio Corvalan filed a criminal complaint on behalf of Joyce Horman in the Santiago Court of Appeals. The law suit was directed against seven former officials of the military regime and any other individuals, whether citizens of Chile or the United States, who the investigation determines to hold responsibility as authors, accomplices, or who engaged in a cover-up of the crimes of abduction, first degree murder, torture, illegal interrment and exhumation and illicit association committed against Charles Horman. Logged in court records as case N 218298, the Charles Horman case became case number 189 to be filed against Augusto Pinochet and accepted by Special Investigative Judge Juan Guzman Tapia.
The complaint names as defendants the following former officials of the military regime:
Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, ex Commander in Chief of the Army and President of Military Junta
Victor Barria Barria, former Assistant Director of Army Intelligence
Herman Brady Roche, former Commander of Army Division II and Santiago Zone Chief for State of Siege
Jaime Espinoza Ulloa, former Commander of National Stadium Prisoner Camp (now deceased)
Pedro Espinoza Bravo, former Director of Army Intelligence Academy
Ariel Gonzalez Cornejo, retired Army colonel, member of Joint Defense Board
Luis Contreras Prieto, retired Army Major

The criminal complaint also is filed against all individuals, whether Chilean, United States citizens, or any other nationality, who the inquest may subsequently determine to be responsible as authors, accomplices, or accessories to the crimes of abduction, first degree murder, torture, illegal inhumation and exhumation, committed against Charles Horman.

Attorney Fabiola Letelier states:
"The criminal actions against the life and rights of Charles Horman are crimes under the Penal Code. They are also prohibited by treaties and international conventions signed by Chile. Some have attempted to privatize human rights, in the sense of imposing the idea that families of the victims or non governmental human rights organizations are responsible for protecting human rights. But International Law teaches protecting citizens, enforcing respect for human rights and investigating possible violation of those rights are responsibilities of States."

Request for Supreme Court Appointment of Investigative Judge

Citing Article 52 of the Court Structural Code, on December 12 , 2000 attorneys Corvalan and Letelier asked the Supreme Court to appoint an Investigative Judge to focus exclusively on the Charles Horman case. United States government backs initiative The judicial petition seeking appointment of a special Investigative Judge was backed by 31 members of the United States Congress in a letter sent to President Bill Clinton. The United States government subsequently sent Chile Diplomatic Note N330, of December 18, 2000, through its Embassy in Santiago. The Diplomatic Note repeated the petition originally enunciated in Diplomatic Note N 311, November 29, 2000, soliciting support of the Chilean government for a thorough investigation of the circumstances and responsibilities in the death of Charles Horman. The Foreign Relations Ministry received the Diplomatic note but never transmitted it to the Supreme Court. The political decision to withhold the Diplomatic Note considerably weakened the petition for a special investigative judge. Chamber of Deputies Human Rights Committee Adds its Supports The Chamber of Deputies Human Rights, Nationality and Citizenship Committee issued Motion N669, signed by Jaime Naranjo, at the time Chamber President, supporting Joyce Horman's request for an independent and complete judicial investigation.

Supreme Court Turns Down the Request
In January 2001, the petition encountered its first rejection from a session of the Full Supreme Court. In response to a request from attorneys Fabiola Letielier and Sergio Corvalan, on February 13, 2001 the Foreign Relations Ministry conveyed to Chile's high court documents from government Historic Archives. The files consisted of eight diplomatic notes sent by the United States Embassy to the Chilean Foreign Relations Ministry between October and November 1973 concerning the disappearance and execution of Charles Horman. The diplomatic pressure brought to bear on Chile failed to produce a effect, and the petition for appointment of a special investigative judge was again turned down. The attorneys continued to insist on their request, sending the Supreme Court an unofficial copy and translation of Diplomatic Note N330 through the United States Embassy, asking that the Court solicit an official copy from the Foreign Relations Ministry. Once more, the Supreme Court refused the request and blocked efforts to disclose official information on the case, preferring to wait for the Foreign Relations Ministry to act de oficio, despite the evident disinterest of Chilean authorities to do so. Complaint Begins to Move withJudge Guzman Meanwhile, Investigative Judge Juan Guzman, responsible for the investigation of nearly 300 cases filed against Pinochet, undertook a number of procedures requested by the attorneys for the Horman case.

Witnesses Testify before Judge Guzman
In July 2001, Judge Guzman heard testimony from a Chilean witness and four U.S. citizens, two of whom were held prisoners in the National Stadium in September 1973. Terry Simon and Joyce Horman also traveled to testify before the judge. From May 8 to 13, 2002, witnesses again were summoned to testify before Guzman. Steve Volk, who worked on the FIN news bulletin and later identified the body of John Teruggi in the morgue, Mark Cooper, a translator for Salvador Allende, and Adam Schesh, who was imprisoned in the Stadium 8 days together with his wife, traveled to Chile for the proceedings. Several Chilean witnesses, all of whom were imprisoned in the National Stadium, testified as well.

(See Dissonance: Their 9/11 and Ours, Marc Cooper)

Frederick Purdy, former U.S. Consul from 1969-1975 who retired in Chile, also testified. Judge Guzman questioned Purdy in the presence of the other American citizens, in order to verify several points of the testimony he gave last year that contradicted declarations made by witnesses for the prosecution. Upon leaving the court after his audience, Purdy reiterated to members of the press that his office gained the release of 24 U.S. citizens held prisoners in the Stadium after the coup, a point of contention with the American witnesses who testified before Guzman. The magistrate sought to ascertain whether, as the Horman family sustains, embassy and consulate staff failed to provide the protection needed to avoid the homicide or whether American diplomats engaged in a cover-up of criminal actions.

On July 17, 2001 Joyce Horman had a private audience with Chilean President Ricardo Lagos. Horman asked President Lagos that Chile become a party to the case by assigning the State Defense Council to investigate the crime committed by agents of the State of Chile. In a press conference, President Lagos publicly affirmed Chile's commitment: "this unfortunate situation must be properly investigated by our courts of law and the responsible parties sanctioned, as has been the case with other judicial investigations of past human rights violations."

On July 20, 2001 four members of the United States Congress backed Joyce Horman's petition with a letter addressed to the President of Chile. Ignoring the broad support calling for a full investigation, on September 11, 2001 the State Defense Council turned down Joyce Horman's petition. It also refused to take the penal and civil actions open to it and is unwilling to exercise its legal authority to become a party to the case. The State Defense Council described as rationale for the decision that the plaintiff possesses "sufficiently adecuate and qualified" legal counsel.

Rogatory Letter to U.S. Officials
On September 10, 2001, Chile's Foreign Relations Ministry issued Letter Rogatory N 2676 2001from the Supreme Court of Chile (Motion N3904, August 1, 2001) requesting assistance from the the United States Supreme Court. Delivered in diplomatic pouch to the Chilean Embassy in Washington D.C., the Rogatory Letter referred to declassified documents and to knowledge by persons who held political responsibility at the time, such as the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Ambassador to Chile Nathaniel Davis, and other officials.

Reenactment of Scene of Detention in National Stadium
On May 14, 15, 22, and 23, 2002 Judge Guzman oversaw the recreation of conditions of detention in the National Stadium, intended to reconstruct the organization and system of imprisonment described previously by witnesses in their sworn testimony in court. The procedure was the most important of its kind conducted on the premises of the National Stadium, convening former Consul Frederick Purdy and several former prisoners, both Chilean and U.S. citizens, held in the Stadium following the coup. The various witnesses separately described conditions of their detention and scenes they experienced, which were then reenacted by a cast of 30 young detective school students.

October 2002 Horman Case is transferred to Judge Jorge Zepeda

December 10, 2003 Judge Jorge Zepeda ordered the arraignment of Rafael Gonzalez. The judge concluded that Gonzalez acted as accomplice in planning and carrying out the arrest of Horman as well as his interrogation, actions that led to the homicide and subsequent the cover-up of the murder.

At this date, in 2006, the Charles Horman case continues in the investigatory stage, under Judge Zepeda.



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