FILE ID:95053108.LAR




TR95053108  (After court upholds prison terms) +eg (550)

WASHINGTON -- The United States welcomed May 31 a Chilean court

decision to uphold the convictions and sentences of the two Chilean

Army officers who ordered the assassinations of opposition leader

Orlando Letelier and his colleague Ronnie Moffitt in Washington in


Acting State Department spokesman Christine Shelly told reporters that

the Clinton administration "applauds the successful efforts of the

Chilean government to investigate and prosecute the case. We are

gratified that justice has prevailed."

On May 30, the Chilean Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling

sentencing retired Gen. Manuel Contreras Sepulveda, who headed the

military's National Intelligence Agency, to seven years in prison, and

his deputy, Brig. Gen. Pedro Espinoza Bravo, who is still in active

service, to six years.

Shelly said the important thing about this case for the United States

is that the "process came out in the way that it should. We express

our pleasure with the confirmation of those prison sentences ... in

the end, justice is served."

The United States, she said, is pleased that the process took place

successfully through the Chilean court system. Shelly noted that the

United States welcomed the verdicts when they were handed down in late

1993 and she praised the Chilean government's "steadfast commitment"

to proceed with prosecution of the case.

"We of course cooperated with the Chilean judicial system," Shelly

said, "by providing the evidence that was used by the prosecution."

She added that while it has been "a long time" since the murders took

place, "the important thing for us is that the process came out in the

way that we felt that it should."

Shelly said "it's important to note that every person that was

indicted by the United States in this terrorist case has now been

prosecuted either in the United States or in Chile and so hopefully

this will bring this very sad chapter to an end."

The case had been closely watched by the United States, which sought

to have the two officers stand trial for the crime. Both men had

denied responsibility for the crime and appealed their convictions to

the Supreme Court.

The decision meant that for the first time in Chile senior army

officers will go to prison for human rights abuses committed under the

military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Letelier was killed Sept. 21, 1976, three years after Pinochet

overthrew the elected Marxist government of Salvador Allende. Letelier

had been Allende's foreign minister and ambassador in Washington and

took up exile here. His car was at Sheridan Circle, near the Chilean

Embassy residence, when a bomb attached to the auto detonated.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the two officers had

orchestrated the car-bombing. Michael Townley, an American who worked

for the Chilean secret police, and a former Chilean Army officer

confessed their involvement and implicated the two officers. Two

Cubans were also found guilty of involvement in the killings.

The ruling was said to be a major victory in testing democratic

freedoms in Chile, six years after Pinochet gave up power to an

elected government. Pinochet continues to command Chile's army.