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Chilean Is Ordered Out of U.S.

Region & State

Former national police officer has admitted witnessing tortures during Pinochet's reign.

October 23, 2004|Richard Marosi | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — A federal immigration judge has ordered the deportation of a former Chilean national police officer who admitted witnessing the torture of leftists during the rule of former dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Fernando Melgarejo, 49, was arrested Thursday at his Los Angeles home, said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Melgarejo is a 25-year veteran of the Chilean national police who was once security chief for Pinochet.

He said in court proceedings that he witnessed four countrymen being tortured with electric shocks to their nipples and genitals, Mack said.

Melgarejo is being held at a federal detention facility in El Centro and has 30 days to appeal the decision.

His attorney, Robert Schneider, was not available for comment.

Melgarejo was originally taken into custody at a San Diego County highway checkpoint in May 2003 after U.S. Border Patrol agents determined he had overstayed his tourist visa, which was issued in 2000.

Melgarejo fought his deportation.

His admissions of witnessing torture were elicited during court proceedings.

"Those who stand by and condone the use of torture under the color of law are not welcome in this country," said Al Rabinowitz, the immigration bureau's deputy chief counsel in San Diego, in a prepared statement. "We will not allow the United States to become a safe haven for those who commit or permit persecution."

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