First Indictment in Charles Horman Case:
Uncovering the Secrets of a Secret Agent

By Memoria y Justicia




Nearly 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.

The legal action filed on December 2, 2000 by Chilean attorneys Fabiola Letelier and Sergio Corvalan on behalf of Joyce Horman originally named seven defendants:

General 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 Siege
Colonel Jaime Espinoza Ulloa, former Commander of the National Stadium Prisoners Camp (deceased in 2003)
Pedro Espinoza Bravo, then Director of the Army Intelligence School
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 killed anyone."

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 him.

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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