On 27 June 2016, a jury in Orlando, USA, ordered the former Chilean military officer Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nuñez to pay US$28 million in damages to Chilean singer Victor Jara’s widow and daughters.
The court found the 67-year-old former senior military officer, who lives in the US, liable for the torture and murder of the popular folk singer in 1973 and ordered him to pay US$8 million in compensatory damages and US$20 million in punitive damages. He may now face extradition proceedings for trial in Chile.
The civil case, brought under the Alien Tort Statute and Torture Victim Protection Act, marked the first time an officer from the Chilean army appeared as a defendant in a US courtroom to account for Jara’s death. The singer’s widow, Joan Turner Jara, who is 88 and has waited 43 years to see her husband’s killer held accountable, was one of the key witnesses in the case.
The Orlando trial featured testimony from about 20 witnesses and lasted two and a half weeks. It was determined by a six-person jury in front of a Florida district court judge.
Víctor Jara was killed in the Chile Stadium in Santiago days after the military coup against President Salvador Allende in 1973. His death as well as the prosecution of his killers so many years later has become a symbol for numerous artists who have been murdered because of their art. The Guardian wrote:
“Jara – folk-singer, theatre director and cultural ambassador of the Allende government – remains arguably the best-known victim and a potent symbol of a nation still struggling to find peace with itself more than two decades since the return of democracy.”
Pedro Barrientos Nunez was accused of personally killing Jara in a game of Russian roulette. “Soldiers under Lt. Barriento’s command blindfolded, handcuffed, interrogated, brutally beat and otherwise tortured” Victor Jara, the lawsuit said.
Dixon Osburn, executive director of the San Francisco-based Centre for Justice and Accountability which brought the case to trial, said: “We believe that perpetrators of the worst human rights crimes should be held to account, no matter how long it takes or where they try to hide. We must strive for a world where all can live freely, unafraid to speak up or sing out for equality, opportunity and responsibility. We hope that the verdict today provides some measure of justice and accountability for those who have fought so hard to see this day.”
Lawyer Luis Calderon, who represented Mr Barrientos at the trial, declined to comment on the verdict through a spokeswoman at his Orlando office, Reuters said.
— Radio Villa Francia (@rvfradiopopular) June 27, 2016
» Independent – 28 June 2016:
Victor Jara: Former Pinochet general found liable for torture and murder of celebrated folk singer
» Slippedisc – 28 June 2016:
After 43 years, Victor Jara’s killer is convicted
» The Guardian – 27 June 2016:
Former Chilean military official found liable for killing of Victor Jara
» The New York Times – 27 June 2016:
Florida Jury Finds Former Chilean Officer Liable in ’73 Killing
» ABC News – 27 June 2016:
Chilean Ex–Military Officer Living in US Found Liable for Folk Singer’s Torture, Murder
» The Guardian – 13 June 2016:
Trial of former Chile military officer for murder of Víctor Jara opens in Florida
» Los Angeles Times – 13 June 2016:
Decades later, Chilean folk singer’s accused killer goes on trial … in Florida
» Freemuse – 24 July 2015:
Chile: Former military officers charged in 1973 murder of Víctor Jara
» Freemuse – 8 June 2009:
Chile: Ex-soldier confessed to shooting singer Victor Jara
» Freemuse – 4 June 2008:
Chile: New evidence lead to reopening of Victor Jara case