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The BBC's Rosie Hayes
"Chile's President urged for calm"
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BBC's Lima correspondent James Reynolds
"He saw prisoners taken off for execution"
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Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 08:53 GMT 09:53 UK
Soldier confirms Chile stadium killings
Soldier at the stadium
A soldier at the stadium during polling this year
A former army officer in Chile has said numerous executions took place in Santiago's national stadium in the aftermath of the 1973 military coup.

Former non-commissioned officer Roberto Saldias said on national television that he saw prisoners taken off for execution at the stadium when he was on guard duty.

General Pinochet
More than 3,000 people were killed under General Pinochet's regime
"They took the law in their own hands," he said, adding he was prepared to provide the names of the executioners.

According to an official report, more than 3,000 people were killed under General Pinochet's regime and more than 1,000 are still unaccounted for.

Although there are many stories about executions, torture and other human rights violations at the stadium after the coup led by General Augusto Pinochet, the admission by Mr Saldias was unusual.

He is the first former army officer to confirm the stories publicly and without concealing his identity.

Changing times

The admission by Mr Saldias is a sign of how much Chile has changed in recent times.

Larios is the biggest murderer in Chile, he's a psychopath and a murderer

Former army officer Roberto Saldias
BBC correspondent James Reynolds said the army has now admitted that soldiers committed human rights abuses under the country's years of military rule.

The military also agreed last week to provide information that may help uncover the bodies of the 1,000 people who disappeared.

Chile's Congress on Wednesday passed legislation that will grant anonymity to members of the armed forces who provide information on those missing.

However, an amnesty law still covers the years of most serious abuse.

'Psychopath and murderer'

Mr Saldias said prisoners at the stadium were organised in groups identified by yellow, black and red discs.

Protestor with a banner of people unaccounted for
A protestor holds a banner of people unaccounted for
"Whoever received a red disc had no chance (of surviving)," he said.

Mr Saldias named former Lieutenant Armando Fernandez Larios as one of the human rights violators then.

"Armando Fernandez Larios is the biggest murderer in Chile, he's a psychopath and a murderer," Mr Saldias said.

Mr Larios fled to the United States in the late 1970s and co-operated with investigators searching for the murderers of former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier in Washington in 1976.

General Pinochet, who seized power in a bloody coup in 1973 and ruled for 17 years, was arrested in London in 1998 after a Spanish judge requested his extradition on murder charges.

However, the British Government ruled he was too ill to be extradited.

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See also:

05 Jun 00 | Americas
Pinochet stripped of immunity
04 Mar 00 | Americas
Thousands march against Pinochet
20 Jan 00 | The Pinochet file
Pinochet profile: Saviour or tyrant
09 Jun 00 | Americas
Pinochet appeal begins
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