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U.S. Asks Chile for Information

September 4, 1999

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ The United States has asked Chile for information on the 1976 killing in Washington of a prominent foe of then Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Chilean officials said Friday.

Foreign Minister Juan Gabriel Valdes said the request was passed on to the Supreme Court, which should make a decision within the next few days.

Orlando Letelier, a former Chilean Cabinet official and envoy to Washington, and an American aide, Ronni Moffitt, were killed in 1976 when a bomb blew up the car they were riding in. The incident was quickly traced to Pinochet’s secret police, known as DINA.

In 1994, four years after Chile’s civilian government took over from Pinochet, a court convicted two top DINA commanders, Gen. Manuel Contreras and Brig. Pedro Espinoza, in the killings. Contreras was sentenced to seven years in prison, and Espinoza was sentenced to six.

The information requested by the United States comes from those 1994 court documents.

Reasons for the information request were not explained.

U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said in January that the case ``was never closed″ in the United States. She said the Justice Department was reviewing whether Pinochet could be tried in the United States for the Letelier killing.

U.S. Ambassador John O’Leary said, however, that the request does not in any way affect U.S.-Chile relations, which he described as ``excellent.″

If the United States decides to try Pinochet, it will be the second country after Spain to file charges against the South American dictator.

Pinochet is in police custody near London, fighting extradition to Spain, where a judge wants to try him on charges of torture stemming from his 1973-90 dictatorship. France, Italy and Switzerland have all suggested they would file their own suits if Pinochet goes free from the Spanish charges.

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