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Two Chileans Convicted in 1975 Shooting

June 23, 1995

ROME (AP) _ Two former Chilean secret service officers were convicted Friday of ordering a 1975 shooting that wounded a Chilean opposition politician and his wife in Rome, the ANSA news agency reported.

Gen. Manuel Contreras Sepulveda, who has taken refuge in a military hospital in Chile, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and Eduardo Iturriaga Neumann was sentenced to 18 years, the report said.

The victims, Bernardo Leighton, a leader of the Chilean Christian Democratic Party, and his wife, Ana Fresno, were attacked outside their home.

Contreras was director of the secret police under former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Iturriaga Neumann directed foreign operations for the agency, called DINA.

Prosecutors depended heavily on the testimony of Michael Vernon Townley, an American who worked for Chile’s secret police during Pinochet’s rule. In a 1993 television interview in Chile, Townley blamed the 1975 shooting on DINA.

Townley, in the interview, admitted planting the bomb that blew up the car of former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier in Washington in 1976.

Contreras has been sentenced to seven years in prison in Chile for ordering Letelier’s assassination, but has refused to report to prison, insisting on completing his sentence at the military hospital. A Chilean judge ruled this week he was too ill with heart disease to the leave the hospital for now.

Brig. Pedro Espinoza, sentenced to six years for his part in Letelier’s murder, began serving his sentence this week.

Letelier was a former envoy to Washington from the elected government of President Salvador Allende, who was overthrown by Pinochet in 1973. Chile returned to democratic rule in 1989.

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