As Chile nears its 45th anniversary since the socialist government of Salvador Allende was overthrown, former National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) and National Information Centre (CNI) agents are being released from prison on parole, despite having been handed multiple lengthy prison sentences.
by Ramona Wadi
Part 4 - Chile: where torturers seek the prosecution of investigative writers
For Javier Rebolledo, who has dedicated his work and writing to uncovering and documenting dictatorship crimes, justice has proved to be nothing but a travesty. In July, El Desconcierto reported that former DINA agent Raul Pablo Quintana Salazar, who is serving a prison sentence in Punta Peuco, pressed charges of calumny against Rebolledo for information included in his book Camaleon. If the court rules in Quintana’s favor, the author faces a sentence of up to three years in prison.
The purportedly injurious information relates to court testimony in which a former officer, Gregorio Romero Hernandez, witnessed Quintana inserting a carrot into the vagina of Nelsa Gadea Galan during a torture session at Tejas Verdes. To this day, Gadea, who is from Uruguay, is one of the disappeared.
It is the first time in Chilean history that a journalist has been prosecuted for reporting and making public the crimes committed during the dictatorship. Quintana’s daughter is appearing in court on behalf of her father. The former DINA agent is legally represented by Juan Carlos Manns, who was also the lawyer for the late DINA Chief, Manuel Contreras Sepulveda.
Rebolledo told MintPress: “My trial could affect Chilean journalism. The punishment becomes a weapon against journalism, to deter journalists from doing their job. It is not only threatening the media but also all citizens. Throughout the whole world, even in Latin America, the crime of of calumny has been removed from the criminal courts. Prison sentences have been replaced with economic fines and punishments that are decided in the civil court.”
The court will issue its verdict on October 9. During his hearing on August 16, it was suggested that Rebolledo serve 541 days in prison. In comments to the press after the hearing, he insisted, “I am not going to retract or correct anything, and I do not accept the prison sentence that they are offering.”
Rebolledo believes that his case must raise two important questions: “What kind of journalism is wanted in Chile? And what role should journalism play within Chilean society?”
There is a general feeling in Chile among those involved in the struggle for memory that Chile’s judicial system is influenced by the right wing and is thus becoming a politicized tool. Rebolledo explains why: “The judiciary is appointed under the influence of the executive. Therefore, there is political influence when a judge is appointed — influence that is well known by the media. Each political party introduces its candidate for the judiciary, within a political balance that has been consented to by parliament. So the judiciary is not independent.”
Rebolledo’s concluding remarks focus on the discrepancies in the Chilean justice system: “Former military officers convicted of human-rights violations are allowed to press charges and sue. Someone like Raul Pablo Quintana, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity, can request that a journalist who is honestly doing his job, be prosecuted and sentenced to prison. All I did was to quote a judicial sentence that is written in a judicial report and that describes a crime that was committed by Quintana.”