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Escaped ex-guerrilla returns to Chile

Escaped ex-guerrilla returns to Chile

Image copyright EPA Image caption Patricio Ortiz Montenegro (c) was mobbed by journalists and supporters on his arrival in Santiago A Chilean former left-wing militant, renowned for a daring prison escape in 1996, has returned to his country after 23 years in exile.Patricio Ortiz Montenegro fought against the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and in 1991…


Patricio Ortiz Montenegro is welcomed upon his arrival to Santiago, Chile, 1 February 2019Image copyright EPA
Image caption Patricio Ortiz Montenegro (c) was mobbed by journalists and supporters on his arrival in Santiago

A Chilean former left-wing militant, renowned for a daring prison escape in 1996, has returned to his country after 23 years in exile.

Patricio Ortiz Montenegro fought against the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and in 1991 was jailed for 10 years for killing a policeman.

But with three other prisoners he escaped from a high-security prison in a basket suspended from a helicopter.

A warrant for his arrest was annulled late last year.

A group of about 50 supporters, friends and relatives greeted Ortiz when he arrived at Santiago International Airport on a flight from Switzerland. Some of them carried the red flags of the Patriotic Front of Manuel Rodriguez (FPMR), of which he was a member.

“I am very excited, very excited, I really wasn’t expecting this welcome,” he told reporters.

“I return to my country. I return with dignity. I return after 23 years to re-unite with all my comrades. I am part of the resistance in this country,” he added.

Ortiz is expected to stay in Chile for about three weeks before returning to Switzerland, where he has lived for more than 20 years as a political refugee.

He was sent to prison for killing a police officer during violent clashes in Santiago.

But he and three others escaped in spectacular style when a helicopter hovered over the prison and lowered a basket into which they all jumped.

Chile has previously urged Switzerland to send Ortiz back to serve out the rest of his sentence. However, in December the Chilean Supreme Court accepted an appeal by his lawyers that invalidated his arrest warrant.

Last year,Chile pressed France to extradite another of the escapees, Ricardo Palma Salamanca, who was arrested in Paris after 22 years on the run.

An estimated 3,200 people were murdered and 28,000 tortured by agents of the state during General Pinochet’s dictatorship, which ended in 1990. More than 1,000 people are still listed as missing.

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