Alfonso Michaud Podlech

07.03.2018
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Facts

Alfonso Michaud Podlech was the first lawyer of Augusto Pinochet after the coup d’état of 11 September 1973. He was also a member of “Patria y Libertad”, an extreme right wing political movement. After the coup d’état, Podlech was appointed head of the Military Prosecutor Office in Temuco.

After the introduction of martial law during the Pinochet regime, Podlech was in charge of the so-called “Martial Courts” in the Malleco-Cautin region. The Martial Courts were so-called legal trials for political prisoners and alleged opponents of the military regime.

Omar Venturelli

Among his alleged victims was Omar Venturelli Leonelli, an Italian-Chilean citizen and professor of education at the Catholic University of Temuco, Chile. Venturelli was apprehended for his commitment to defending the lands of the native Mapuche population. He was officially apprehended on 25 September 1973. In October 1973, Venturelli was brought to the Temuco prison. According to witnesses, he was last seen alive there on 4 October 1973, although, allegedly, an official document signed by Podlech noted that Venturelli had been released on the previous day.

Hernán Henríquez Aravena

Another alleged victim was the surgeon Hernán Henríquez Aravena, who was director of the regional hospital of Temuco, Chile. On the night of 12 or 13 September 1973, Henríquez Aravena’s home was searched by the “Carabineros” and he was taken away and transferred to the Tucapel Regiments. On the next day, the Military Prosecutor of Temuco ordered his house arrest and ordered him to appear in the military court on 25 September.

However, on 24 September Henríquez Aravena’s house was raided again. He was subsequently taken away for a second time by the “Carabineros”. On 5 October 1973 it was reported by the military that Henríquez Aravena had been executed at the Maquehua Air Base in Temuco, Chile after an alleged attempt to escape. A military record of Henríquez Aravena’s investigation was never found.

Jaime Eltit Spielman

Another one of Podlech’s alleged victims was Jaime Eltit Spielman, a lawyer and a militant member of the “Juventud Radical de Chile”, the youth wing of the Chilean “Partido Radical” (Radical Party). Eltit was arrested in Santiago on 13 September 1973 by members of a military patrol. He was apprehended in the street. Eltit was first detained in the Tacna Regiment. The next day, he was moved to an apartment building, where he was controlled by telephone. During his detention in the apartment, he was visited by his brother Ricardo Eltit. On 6 October 1973, Eltit was transferred by train to Temuco. He was held at the Tacna Regiment, where he was visited again by his brother and by several others, and allegedly showed signs of physical mistreatment. Eltit disappeared from Temuco six days later and traces of his whereabouts were lost on 13 October 1973. His remains have not been recovered.

“Asalto al polvorín del regimiento Tucapel” case

Podlech is also allegedly responsible for the death of seven Communist Party militants. In the night of 10 November 1973, Juan Chávez, Pedro Mardones, Amador Montero, and Juan Ruiz, all students of the Technical University of the State of Temuco, besides Florentino Molina, worker, Víctor Valenzuela, auxiliary and Carlos Aillañir, agricultural worker, were taken from the Tucapel Regiment of Temuco, where they were all being held. They were loaded on a military vehicle and transferred to a shooting range in the military compound Isla Cautin, where they were tied up and executed. The incident became known as “asalto al polvorín del regimiento Tucapel” (assault on the Tucapel Regiment ammunitions).

Procédure Légale

Omar Venturelli case

 On 26 July 2008, Podlech was apprehended at the airport of Madrid while going to Prague with his family. The authorities arrested him at the airport on an international warrant issued by the Italian authorities for the alleged enforced disappearance, torture, mistreatment and murder of Omar Venturelli, an Italian-Chilean citizen. He was immediately extradited to Rome and imprisoned. Podlech remained in detention at Rebibba prison in Rome for 3 years awaiting his trial.

Between 2009 and 2010, Podlech was tried before the Roman Court of Assize. The Prosecutor asked for a life sentence. Podlech denied all charges.

Dozens of witnesses from all over the world came to Rome to testify against Podlech. They recounted brutal arrests of civilians, torture, forced disappearances and violence against farmers, native Mapuche population, students, workers and professionals.

On 11 May 2011, during the trial phase, Podlech brought a criminal complaint against two detectives of the Human Rights Brigade of the Chilean Investigate Police involved in investigating his case. He accused them of falsifying the witness statements taken in Chile and incorporating them into the case file. Podlech brought another criminal complaint against a witness who had travelled from Chile to testify against him.

On 11 July 2011, the Court acquitted Podlech of all charges. With regard to the accusation of murder, Podlech was acquitted for lack of evidence. The crimes of enforced disappearance and torture were prescribed according to Italian law. Thereby, Podlech was acquitted and the Court ordered his immediate release.

The Prosecutor appealed this decision before the Roman Court of Cassation. However, the appeal was filed 2 days after the relevant time limit. The dismissal of the appeal brought the trial of Podlech to an end.

Hernan Henriquez Aravena case

On 13 January 2016, Podlech was arrested in Villarrica, Chile, and detained in the Tucapel Regiment in Temuco on the accusation that he was one of the perpetrators of the murder of the seven Communist Party militants on 10 November 1973, and that he was an accomplice in the disappearance and murder of Hernán Henríquez Aravena. On 15 January 2016, after Podlech’s defence lodged an appeal against his detention, the Second Chamber of the Appeals Court of Temuco revoked the order issued by the Court of Appeals Judge Alvaro Mesa to remand Podlech in the Tucapel Regiment. Instead, the Chamber replaced it with an order for a house arrest.

On 20 January 2016, the Second Chamber also decided to change Podlech’s charged responsibility for the murder of Henríquez Aravena from an accomplice to a primary perpetrator.

Podlech denied responsibility.

On 25 February 2016, the Court of Appeals of Temuco revoked the security measure of house arrest and granted Podlech bail on the payment of the sum of one million pesos.

On 21 December 2016, the Court of Appeals of Temuco Judge Mesa charged Podlech, among many others, with the aggravated murder of Henríquez Aravena in the Maquehue Air Base in Temuco in October 1973.

Jaime Eltit Spielman case

In May 2014, Judge Alejandro Madrid of the Court of Appeals of Santiago, ordered the investigation and prosecution of Podlech, as well as of several other individuals, for the kidnapping and disappearance of Jaime Eltit in October 1973. On 2 June 2014, Podlech was arrested and detained in the Tucapel Regiment, where his alleged victim Eltit was also held in October 1973. Podlech denied the accusations.

On 12 February 2017, the Court of Appeal in Santiago, led by Judge Madrid, sentenced Podlech to seven years of imprisonment for the kidnapping and disappearance of Eltit on 13 September 1973. The Chilean State was ordered to pay to the victim’s family a compensation for moral damages.

“Asalto al polvorín del regimiento Tucapel” case

 On 17 July 2012, the Court of Appeals of Temuco Judge Alvaro Mesa announced that the murder of the seven Communist Party supporters in November 1973 was under investigation.

On 13 November 2013, Podlech, together with 24 others, was arrested and remanded for his alleged involvement as an accomplice in the murder, and as a primary perpetrator in the unlawful coercion of the seven the Communist Party militants in the assault on the Tucapel Regiment ammunitions in November 1973.

On 11 March 2016, the First Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Temuco rejected a request by Podlech’s defence for the revocation of the indictment charging the accused with the murder of the seven Communist Party Militants on 10 November 1973.

Podlech denied responsibility.

Fact Sheet
Name: Alfonso Michaud Podlech
Nationality: Chilean
Charges: enforced disappearance, torture, murder
Status: Acquitted before Roman Assize Court (Italy); sentenced to seven years of imprisonment before Court of Appeal in Santiago (Chile); two cases in progress before Court of Appeals of Temuco (Chile)
Judgement Place: Roman Assize Court (Italy); Court of Appeal in Santiago (Chile); Court of Appeals of Temuco (Chile)
Particulars: Acquitted for lack of evidence for the charge of murder and prescription of the charges of torture and enforced disappearance by the Roman Assize Court on 11 July 2011; sentenced to seven years of imprisonment for kidnapping and disappearance before the Court of Appeal in Santiago on 12 February 2017