NEW DELHI – Frenchwoman Marie-Emmanuelle Verhoeven, who is wanted for extradition by Chile for the 1991 murder of a senator from the conservative UDI party, says allegations she was a guerrilla fighter with the nom de guerre Commander Ana are a fabrication of Chile’s far right.
The 56-year-old Verhoeven, who was arrested last year in India on the basis of an Interpol notice, issued at Chile’s request, spent 16 months in a New Delhi prison before being released on bail on July 2.
She told EFE in an interview in the Indian capital that her contacts with the killers of Jaime Guzman, the main author of the constitution that Gen. Augusto Pinochet imposed in 1980, were limited to the time she worked at a Chilean prison.
Verhoeven says her purported alter ego – Commander Ana of the far-left Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front, which took up arms against Pinochet’s 1973-1990 dictatorship and continued to operate after democracy was restored – “doesn’t exist.”
“I’m not who people say; I’m not a commander. I’m an ordinary woman caught up in something extraordinary,” she said.
The murder case was reopened in 2010, when the Independent Democratic Union, or UDI, was part of the coalition government then in power.
Verhoeven lived in Chile from 1985 to 1995 and worked at a prison in 1994, ensuring protection for the rights of inmates scheduled for transfer to a high-security prison in Santiago.
“They know I wasn’t involved (in the murder), but they think I might know something because I was with the political prisoners,” she said.
Those inmates included Patriotic Front members Ricardo Palma Salamanca, a fugitive who is believed to be in Cuba, and Mauricio Hernandez Norambuena, now imprisoned in Brazil for kidnapping.
She said Palma Salamanca acknowledged killing Guzman with a rifle and told her that after being arrested he was tortured until he confessed, while Hernandez Norambuena told her he served as operations chief in the senator’s murder.
They and two other left-wing guerrillas were lifted out of Santiago’s High Security Prison by helicopter in 1996 in the so-called “jailbreak of the century,” a crime in which Chilean authorities also have sought to implicate Verhoeven.
She says, however, that she never set eyes on that second prison and by then had already returned to France after “inexplicably” losing her job in 1995.
Verhoeven said she was optimistic about the extradition process but acknowledged that she fears “something very bad” will happen to her if she is handed over to Chilean authorities.
“The only terrorism Chile knows is state terrorism, with torture, disappearances and a lot people forced into exile,” she said.