Killer of Chilean dictator's adviser caught in France

The convicted assassin of an adviser to Chile's former military dictator Augusto Pinochet has been caught in France after 22 years on the run. A Paris court released Ricardo Palma Salamanca but placed him under judicial control on Saturday.

Street art in the Chilean city of Molina celebrates Pälma Salamanca's escape
Street art in the Chilean city of Molina celebrates Pälma Salamanca's escape Public domain/Rodrigo Fernández

Palma Samamanca, 48, was picked up on a Paris street on Thursday and placed in detention on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by Chile.

The court on Saturday informed him that he was likely to be the subject of an extradition request but freed him from detention, while banning him from leaving France and ordering him to report to a Paris police station every day, according to Spain's EFE news agency.

Chilean Foreign Affairs Minister Heraldo Munoz confirmed the arrest on Friday, having interrupted a holiday to contact the French authorities.

Daring escape

In 1992 Palma Salamanca was given two life sentences for the kidnapping of Cristian Edwards, the son of the deceased owner of El Mercurio newspaper, Agustin Edwards, and the killing of Jaime Guzman, an academic and right-wing politician who was a key adviser to Pinochet.

Palma Salamanca was a member of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR), an amred group formed by the Chilean Communist Party, which was banned under Pinochet.

In 1996 he and three other FPMR members escaped from a maximum security prison by helicopter.

The escape is believed to have been orchestrated by Raúl Escobar Poblete, also known as "el Comandante Emilio", who was his accomplice in the Guzman killing.

Detained but released in December

Palma Salamanca has been on the run ever since and is believed to have fled Mexico after Escobar Poblete was arrested there in May last year, going to Cuba and then France

According to Chilean Supreme Court judge Mario Carroza, he was detained in France last December but released.

Carroza welcomed his arrest, as did Chile's Independent Democratic Union (UDI), which was founded by Guzman.

Its present leader, Juan Antonio Coloma, told Chilean media that Munoz will visit France next week in the hope of speeding up extradition.

French courts will consider the demand in March.

French national Marie-Emmanuelle Verhoeven spent 16 months in jail in India awaiting extradition for alleged involvement in the Guzman killing in 2016-17.

She returned to France last July after the extradition proceedings were abandoned.

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