The curious case of the globetrotting colonel

It’s been over three decades since the Pinochet dictatorship ended in Chile and by now, you’d think most of its surviving killers and torturers would be behind bars. Quite a few are, and Chile even has a special jail to hold such prisoners.

But every now and then someone manages to elude justice. Consider the case of former army colonel Walter Klug, charged with the forced disappearance and killing of a university student and of more than 20 employees at two hydroelectric plants in southern Chile shortly after the 1973 military coup. In 2015 he was sentenced to a 10-year prison term for the first crime, but Klug, who holds dual Chilean and German citizenship, managed to leave the country on his German passport. He took up residency in Germany but two years ago travelled to Parma, Italy with his wife, an engineer who was attending a conference. Italian police arrested Klug at his hotel and later extradited him to Chile.

Here’s where it gets murky. Klug’s legal team successfully appealed his conviction in the case of the missing university student, though why this didn’t happen back in 2015 is unclear. The case of the missing hydroelectric plant workers was still moving through the courts, and. presumably Klug was not supposed to leave Chile while this was going on. Nevertheless, Klug fled the country again, using his German passport and earlier this week a Chilean human rights group reported that he was in Argentina, awaiting a flight to Germany—which has no extradition treaty with Chile.

Stay tuned.

Update: On Saturday, June 12, Argentine police arrested Klug outside his hotel in Buenos Aires and at last report he was due to appear before a judge to begin the process of extraditing him back to Chile.

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