Chilean judge sentences murderers of US-American citizens Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi

[In the exposure of the murders, 4 decades ago, of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, the US-spnsored Pinochet coup against Chilean President Salvador Allende, the role of the US and the terrorism master-minded by Henry Kissinger came into public view.  The fact that the murderers were not successfully prosecuted for 41 years is proof that US control  has been effective, even long after the fact.  And now the Chilean prosecution aims to put some of this embarassing history behind them as they sentence two of the murderous perpetrators.  —  Frontlines ed.]

Tlaxcala, 2/23/2015 
Translated by  Richard Ferguson, Edited by  Supriyo Chatterjee  
Almost 42 years after the events, Special Judge Jorge Zepeda Arancibia sentenced two intelligence officers for the murders of US-Americans Charles Edmond Horman, a 31-year-old journalist, and Frank Randall Teruggi Bombatch, a 24-year-old student, shot in the Estadio Nacional (National Stadium) days into the coup headed by Pinochet. 

The 276-page judgment sentences Army intelligence official Pedro Octavio Espinoza Bravo, who serves several other sentences for assassinations, to seven years of prison for the murders,while Air Force officer Rafael Agustín González Berdugo will serve two years of probation as an accomplice to Horman’s homicide.

Judge Zepeda’s exhaustive investigations confirmed the direct intervention of the United States in the coup through Operation Unitas, carried out in Valparaíso simultaneously with the offensive, and further revealed the ruthless persecution that the United States ordered the Chilean intelligence services to undertake against American radicals in Chile sympathetic to Salvador Allende, or simply interested in learning at close quarters and living among the peaceful revolutionary process led by the Head of State overthrown by it. In the Estadio Nacional up to 24 detained Americans were registered (Horman and Teruggi weren’t), both men and women, including students, academics, writers and two Maryknoll priests.

Charles Horman                                                  Frank Teruggi

The instigators of and accessories to this persecution of American citizens were their fellow countryman, Ray Elliots Charles, Marine Captain and chief of the American military mission, supported by the Ambassador Nathaniel Davis. Far from protecting their compatriots, they covered up the murders and detentions of Americans, going as far as providing false information to family members like Edmund Horman, Charles’s father, who moved to Chile in search of his son.


Ray E. Charles died in 2013 in Chile, where he lived in secret, hidden by a protective net of super-powerful forces that provided him with up to six identities. In 2012 the Supreme Court accepted judge Zepeda’s solicitude for the extradition from the United States to bring him to testify in the case. However, the American actually resided in Chile at the time in a five-star care home for the aged.
The Horman/Teruggi case was taken up in the 1982 film Missing by Costa Gavras, starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. The lawyers in the case were Fabiola Letelier del Solar and Sergio Corvalán Carrasco, who began the trial 15 years ago at the request of the victims’ family members, Joyce Hamren de Horman, widow of the journalist, and Janis Randall Teruggi Page, sister of the student, after a failed trial in the United States, boycotted by the U.S. authorities, against the then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Horman and Teruggi were kidnapped from their homes by uniformed individuals on different days. They weren’t registered as “prisoners” by the precarious bureaucracy of the prison, into which the Estadio Nacional had been transformed. They suffered cruel torture and were murdered by a firing squad the day after their apprehension in the same sporting stadium. Charles Horman, taken from his home on Avenida Vicuña Mackenna 4126, San Joaquín, Santiago, was executed on 18 September 1973, Independence Day. Frank Teruggi, taken from his home on Hernán Cortés y Pedro de Valdivia, Ñuñoa, Santiago, was executed 22 September.
Seven years of prison for Espinoza Bravo and two of probation (that, it seems, he will serve in liberty) for González Verdugo doesn’t seem like much punishment for these monstrous murders. (Verdugo – meaning executioner in Spanish -, who first pretended to be a “witness” before Judge Zepeda put him in the dock of the accused, legally changed his surname to Berdugo in course of the trial).

Espinoza Bravo                                                                     González Verdugo

The judicial investigation of this terrible episode provides a glimpse of the double standards of the American Embassy, which in place of protecting American citizens devoted itself to covering up crimes against humanity by the incipient civilian-military dictatorship. For example, when the ambassador Nathaniel Davis spoke with Edmund Horman, the father of Charles, he already knew that the journalist had been killed, without trial or the right to defence, but he withheld this information from the victim’s father and family. After multiple obstructions, various autopsies, burials and exhumations, Charles Horman was finally put to rest at Greenwood Cemetery, New York, in April 1974, seven months after his assassination.


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