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Former Chilean Mayor Arrested for Pinochet-era Human Rights Crimes

FILE - Retired colonel and former mayor of the town of Providencia, Cristian Labbe, in Santiago, Chile, June 21, 2005.

The ex-mayor of an upscale Santiago neighborhood was arrested on Monday in connection with an investigation into human rights crimes committed during General Augusto Pinochet's 1973-1990 dictatorship of Chile.

Cristian Labbe, a retired colonel who later served as mayor of the capital's Providencia district, is a subject of the probe into human rights violations, government spokesman Alvaro Elizalde said to reporters on Monday.

“We hope this can be cleared up and it's the courts that have to determine any responsibilities [in the case],” he said.

Elizalde did not give details but a source close to the matter, who was not authorized to speak to the media, said Judge Marianela Cifuentes is prosecuting 10 former military members, adding that Labbe is being prosecuted for unlawful association as a member of Pinochet's notorious DINA secret police.

“Cifuentes determined that the DINA had become an unlawful organization for committing crimes against humanity, and as such has prosecuted Labbe as a member of that unlawful organization,” the source said.

The prosecutions relate to the disappearance and execution of 13 people at the Tejas Verdes barracks between 1973 and 1974. Among others being prosecuted are Manuel Contreras, the former chief of the DINA secret police, the source said. Contreras is already serving time for human rights violations.

Though the coup that ushered in the military dictatorship happened over four decades ago, there has been a recent push to bring more of those accused of human rights crimes to trial.

Last month, the government said it would seek to overturn a controversial law that protects military personnel who committed human rights atrocities during the dictatorship from being prosecuted.

Labbe, a polarizing figure in Chilean politics and a member of the right-wing UDI party, has long drawn criticism for his outspoken support of the dictatorship.

In 1996, he was elected mayor of Providencia, an affluent business and residential district in Santiago, serving four tenures until being voted out of office in 2012.

An estimated 3,000 people were kidnapped and killed or disappeared and 28,000 were tortured during the 17-year dictatorship. Pinochet died in 2006 at the age of 91, having never faced a full trial for the crimes committed under his rule.