Thursday, December 2nd 2004 - 20:00 UTC

Killer of Chilean Senator arrested in Argentina

A Chilean judge on Wednesday indicted for murder and kidnapping a left-wing extremist arrested this week in Argentina

Judge Hugo Dolmestch told reporters in Santiago he is charging Galvarino Apablaza, known as "Comandante Salvador" for the 1990 killing of Senator Jaime Guzman Errazuriz and for the kidnapping of Cristian Edwards, son of media baron Agustin Edwards, owner among others of the country's main daily El Mercurio.

Chilean authorities claim Apablaza was the top leader of the Marxist oriented Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front.

Later Wednesday, Apablaza requested political asylum in Argentina and his attorney anticipated he will ask that charges against him be dropped.

"I was a fervent opponent of the Pinochet regime. I was a member of an organization that exercised its legitimate right to resist oppression. I was a victim of the regime's prisons and atrocities, and I'm still being persecuted for all of it" argued Apablaza in his request for asylum.

The request was presented by attorney Rodolfo Yanzon to the Refugee Eligibility Committee (CEPARE), an official organization recognized by the U.N. High Commission on Refugees as having jurisdiction over this type of cases in Argentina, which is represented on the committee.

"Until a decision is made on the request for asylum, Apablaza can't be extradited," pointed out Mr. Yanzon.

Judge Dolmestch said he handed down the indictment following a request from the plaintiffs in the case -Guzman's family and the Chilean Interior Ministry- and as the first step in formalizing a request for Apablaza's extradition from Argentina.

Relatives of Apablaza said they have not seen him since he was expelled from Chile in 1975 after being detained and tortured by then-dictator Augusto Pinochet's secret police. However some Chilean media reports indicate that the militant extremist has been in Chile several times in recent years under false identity.

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