Human Rights NATIONAL

Pinochet-era criminal escapes Chile to avoid prison time

Walter Klug Rivera escaped to Argentina earlier this week in an attempt to travel on to Germany. He was convicted for his role in the death and disappearance of 23 Chileans during the dictatorship and must serve 10 years in prison. It’s not the first time Klug escapes Chile to avoid prison time.

On Tuesday, June 8, Human rights organization Londres38 denounced the fact that Walter Klug Rivera, a former intelligence officer and army general under dictator Augusto Pinochet, had left Chile and was in Argentina, awaiting a flight to Germany. Klug has a German passport and, as Germany has no extradition treaty with Chile, he can theoretically avoid prison time in Chile by relocating to Germany. However, an international warrant for his arrest has been issued through Interpol.

Klug was convicted by the Supreme Court in Chile for his role in the death and disappearance of 23 Chileans who worked for energy company Endesa during the Pinochet years. He was sentenced to 10 years and one day in the infamous Punta Peuco prison, where human rights violators serve their terms. Klugl has thus far managed to avoid prison time, because, in 2015, he fled to Italy. There he was arrested and extradited to Chile in early 2020.

In an interview with El Desconcierto, lawyer Patricia Parra, who was involved with several cases against Klug, blames Chilean authorities in charge of investigating human rights violations when explaining Klug’s get-away. “He was convicted in 2015 for the Endesa case,” she said. “He was a member of the military intelligence service in 1973 and has been pointed out by political prisoners as a man who took pleasure in torturing them physically and psychologically.” According to Parra, authorities did not understand Klug’s flight-risk well enough and they could have avoided the situation if they had simply sentenced him to preventive detention.

The Socialist Party, one of the opposition parties in Chilean Congress, wants the government to explain how it is possible that a convicted criminal can evade his prison sentence not once, but twice. “Today we learned that this person escaped to Argentina and is waiting for a flight to Germany where he cannot be extradited,” they said in a statement. “We demand that the Ministry of the Interior explains to us why a person convicted of crimes against humanity can leave the country undetected.”

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