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News > Latin America

Killer of Chilean Singer and Activist Victor Jara Faces Trial

  • At Victor Jara's memorial in 2009, his widow Joan Turner (L) next to Chilean president Michelle Bachelet

    At Victor Jara's memorial in 2009, his widow Joan Turner (L) next to Chilean president Michelle Bachelet | Photo: EFE

Published 3 June 2016

​Singer Victor Jara was tortured and killed during the Pinochet dictatorship for his political beliefs.

Former Chilean soldier Pedro Barrientos is on trial in the United States for the arbitrary detention, brutal torture and extrajudicial execution of famous Chilean singer Victor Jara in 1973.

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"Soldiers under the direction of Barrientos blindfolded, handcuffed, interrogated, severely beat and tortured Victor Jara. Lieutenant Barrientos ordered his soldiers to beat and torture Jara even more, to punish him for his political beliefs and his support for President Allende, ” according to the lawsuit.

Jara’s songs reflected his socialist beliefs and inspired thousands through his political activism. He was also Cultural Ambassador during socialist President Salvador Allende’s government, later overthrown by General Augusto Pinochet in a U.S.-backed coup.

Barrientos, who moved to the U.S. in 1989 and holds dual citizenship, will face trial on June 17.

Killer of Chile's Victor Jara to Be Tried in the US

The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) presented the lawsuit on behalf of Jara’s widow and daughters, and is charging Barrientos with arbitrary detention of civilians in Chile’s National Stadium, which served as a detention and torture center during the dictatorship of General Pinochet.

“We stand by allegations that he was the one who tortured and murdered Víctor Jara, or at the very least he aided and abetted in his death, and in either case he is liable for what happened,” said Dixon Osburn, CJA’s executive director.

Jara taught at the State Technical University (UTE) and was detained along with students and other teachers. He was shot 44 times inside the stadium, which is now named after him. He died on September 16, 1973, five days after the Pinochet coup.

The Chilean government filed an indictment against Barrientos in December 2012, as well as seven other officials for their involvement in the death of Jara, and opened an extradition request and sought an international arrest warrant.

Jara’s death is one of the most famous cases of human right violations during Pinochet’s dictatorship, which lasted from 1973 to 1990. During that time, 3,200 people were killed and 28,000 tortured by the state.

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