ORLANDO, Florida – A civil trial in U.S. federal court jury ended on Monday in a guilty verdict for retired Chilean army Lt. Pedro Barrientos Nuñez on charges arising from the murder of popular folk singer Victor Jara in the wake of the Sept. 11, 1973, military coup in Santiago.
The jury awarded $28 million in damages to Jara’s widow, British-born Joan Turner Jara, and the couple’s two daughters, Amanda and Manuela.
Barrientos, 67, who came to the United States in 1989, is a resident of Deltona, Florida, and has U.S. citizenship.
Joan Jara and her daughters wept and embraced their attorney on hearing the verdict, which came after two days of deliberations.
Barrientos, accompanied by three lawyers, was visibly downcast.
The verdict represents a “message not just to other perpetrators, but also to the United States government to expedite the extradition (of Barrientos) to Chile,” plaintiffs’ attorney Catherine Roberts told EFE.
The former lieutenant faces criminal charges in Chile.
In his testimony before a U.S. district court in Orlando, Barrientos denied having any knowledge of Jara in 1973 and said that he only learned of the circumstances of the singer’s death many years after the event.
The plaintiffs, however, provided evidence, including accounts from some of Barrientos’ former army comrades, that connected the defendant to the crime.
The suit against Barrientos was filed in 2013 by the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability, or CJA, assisted in the trial by the law firm Chadbourbe & Parke.
Jara, a musician, actor, theater director and cultural icon, was a prominent supporter of Socialist President Salvador Allende, who took his own life during the Sept. 11 putsch.
The singer was arrested the day after the coup at the State Technical University – now the University of Santiago – along with numerous students and instructors and taken to Chile Stadium, where roughly 5,000 Allende sympathizers were being held.
Not long after his arrival at the stadium, Jara was taken into an underground passageway together with about a dozen other prisoners.
He was never seen alive again.
The stadium has since been renamed in honor of Victor Jara.