three years to the day since it was filed in Santiago's Court
of Appeals, the criminal complaint for the abduction, first-degree
homicide, torture, illegal exhumation, and other crimes against
Charles Horman reached a critical stage. On December 10, 2003
Judge Jorge Zepeda ordered the first arraignment in the case
related to the murder of the U.S. journalist in the aftermath
of the military coup 30 years ago.
action filed on December 2, 2000 by Chilean attorneys Fabiola
Letelier and Sergio Corvalan on behalf of Joyce Horman originally
named seven defendants:
Augusto Pinochet, former Commander in Chief of the Army and
President of the Military Junta
Colonel Victor Barria Barria, former Assistant Director of
the Army Intelligence Administration
General Hermann Brady Roche, former Commander of the Army's
Second Division and Zone Chief for Santiago under State of
Colonel Jaime Espinoza Ulloa, former Commander of the National
Stadium Prisoners Camp (deceased in 2003)
Pedro Espinoza Bravo, then Director of the Army Intelligence
Ariel Gonzalez Cornejo, Retired Army Colonel, member of the
National Defense Chief of Staffs
Luis Contreras Prieto, Retired Army Major
The complaint is also directed against any other individuals
who the investigation may determine to have held responsibility
for the criminal activities. The judicial investigation also
seeks to ascertain the facts surrounding the extra-judicial
execution of another U.S. citizen, Frank Teruggi.
The individual Judge Zepeda charged as accomplice of the homicide
of Charles Horman was not among the originally named defendants.
Rather, the plaintiffs presented him as a witness. However,
the judge determined the existence of sufficient proof of
Rafael Gonzalez's direct participation in the crime, transforming
the witness into defendant.
More than 16,000 documents of the CIA, the Pentagon, the FBI
and other U.S. agencies were declassified between 1999 and
the year 2000 under the Freedom of Information Act. Various
documents related to the Horman case refer to undercover agent
Rafael Gonzalez who had been with the Chilean Consulate in
New York from 1969 to 1972. Among the references to Gonzalez
is a transcript of an interview conducted by CBS correspondent
Frank Manitzas and Washington Post reporter Joanne Omang on
June 7 and 8, 1976.
The interview took place at the Italian Embassy in Santiago
where Gonzalez together with his wife and young son had sought
refuge, asking for political asylum to allegedly abandon his
intelligence functions. Gonzalez revealed to the journalist
that he had been present on the ninth floor of the Defense
Ministry in the office of Army Intelligence Director General
Augusto Lutz when he gave the order to eliminate Charles Horman.
He also admitted having located the remains of de Charles
Horman in Santiago's General Cemetery.
However, as the good intelligence agent he is, before Judge
Zepeda, Gonzalez denies that what he told the journalists
was true. Despite his denials, the judicial investigation
has established that Gonzalez was a key figure in the series
of crimes related to the death of Charles Horman. His connection
to the Teruggi case as well as possible involvement in other
crimes within Chile and beyond its borders, are under investigation.
The investigation has proven the participation of Gonzalez
in planning the abduction, carrying out the abduction, interrogation
under torment, illegal inhumation and illegal exhumation of
Charles Horman. The judge reached the conclusion that Gonzalez
participated at the very least as accomplice in all these
actions that led to the homicide of Horman and the cover-up
following his death.
In October 1973 the Horman family repeatedly tried to retrieve
the body from the morgue and was repeatedly denied on technical
grounds. It is now known that the remains of Charles Horman
were buried and exhumed three times. Prior to the first burial,
the body of Charles Horman was left at least two weeks without
refrigeration, rendering fingerprint identification imprecise.
Members of the U.S. Senate pressured their government, threatening
to block authorization for the supply of weapons requested
by Chile's Military Junta. In March 1974, seven months after
these events, the Horman family received a telegram from Secretary
of State Henry Kissinger, informing them that the Chilean
government had approved their request to send them Charles
Horman's remains. The telegram also informed them that the
United States Embassy in Santiago required the payment of
US$900 to cover shipping costs to New York of their loved
one murdered in Chile.
It was Rafael Gonzalez who led American officials to the unmarked
grave that held the journalist's remains. Why was he buried
in an unmarked NN (No Name) grave if the identity was known?
And how did Gonzalez known which among all the NN graves corresponded
to that of Charles Horman? Joyce Horman, Charles' widow, and
the plaintiff attorneys hope that Judge Zepeda will find the
answers to these and other questions.
In January 1974, three months before the body of Charles Horman
was sent to New York, the Military Junta issued a special
decree to recognize Gonzalez's condition as retired Air Force
colonel. Ten days after the body was finally sent on March
29, 1974, the Air Force rehired him and gave him a promotion,
as payment for having solved a sensitive problem.
After the military coup, Gonzalez appears, always discretely,
in several crucial scenes. He is in La Moneda on September
11, 1973 among the troops that took the Presidential Palace
and sees President Salvador Allende dead in his office. Years
later, he explained his presence among the flames of the bombed
La Moneda Palace to the journalists: "My only objective was
to take files and bring them to the Defense Ministry. I never
When journalist Frank Manitzas pressed him to recall the date
of the meeting he witnessed during which Augusto Lutz made
the decision to kill Horman, Gonzalez replied: "I can't remember
because so many things happened in those days. I worked day
and night. I hardly slept all week."
The work that left Gonzalez sleepless after the coup was related
to his capacity as secret agent of the National Defense Chiefs
of Staff. He carried out intelligence functions during many
years and was especially active from 1973-1975. His tasks
were not limited to processing information like a secretary,
as he stated before the judge. Rather, Gonzalez worked as
operations chief in charge of several intelligence units.
Patricio Carvajal, director National Defense Chiefs of Staff,
stated that he needed an experienced agent like Gonzalez.
That means Gonzalez is a man of experience, who earned the
recognition of his superior officers of the Armed Forces and
was ideal for carrying out a solution to the Horman case,
beginning with the exhumation of the remains.
Attorney Sergio Corvalan states, "He is not just any civilian.
Regardless of what he says, we have the proof of that fact.
Ample evidence exists that he was not merely a witness, but
a perpetrator of the crime and he should be treated as such."
Despite the body of documentation amassed and the numbers
of people both in the United States and Chile, interested
in determining what happened to Charles Horman, there is still
not full clarity as to what occurred. The plaintiffs believe
that in addition to Gonzalez another 20 -30 individuals had
involvement in a conspiracy to commit a crime and they continued
- and they still continue - to cover it up. The plaintiffs
believe the line of command in the case leads right up to
the Army Commander in Chief of the time, Augusto Pinochet,
and they do not discount the possibility of asking for the
removal of his immunity in order to question and investigate
The arraignment of Rafael Gonzalez is the culmination of an
intense and meticulous work initiated by Special Investigative
Judge Juan Guzman Tapia. The case was transferred to Judge
Jorge Zepeda in October 2002 and a great deal of the progress
achieved is owed to fundamental support of the detectives
of Investigations Police Fifth Department, created to back
judicial investigations. Approximately 20 persons, including
former prisoners of the National Stadium and fellow U.S. citizens
have testified in the case.
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