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Chilean woman should be extradited for alleged kidnappings under Pinochet, says Australian court

In this 2019 photo, members of the Chilean Australian community are seen outside a Sydney courthouse. (Dean Lewins/AP)

A Chilean woman living in Australia and accused of multiple kidnappings during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet must be extradited to face the charges in her home country, an Australian federal judge ruled Thursday.

Adriana Rivas, 68, had appealed an earlier magistrate ruling upholding her extradition to Chile, where she is wanted on seven counts of aggravated kidnapping as an alleged agent of Pinochet’s secret police in the 1970s.

Rivas, who denies the charges, first left Chile in 1978, when thousands of Chileans were taken in by Australia for humanitarian reasons, according to local media reports. She worked quietly there for years as a nanny and a cleaner until her arrest in Sydney in 2019.

While Rivas has denied the allegations of torture, she did tell Australia’s public service broadcaster SBS that sometimes it was necessary.

“They had to break the people — it has happened all over the world, not only in Chile.”

Chilean authorities requested her extradition but Rivas challenged the order on technical grounds, according to media reports and court documents. Her lawyers in Australia questioned the authenticity of the documents allegedly proving her links to the abductions, including the disappearance of Communist Party leader, Victor Diaz, and six of his supporters.

But Federal Court Judge Wendy Abraham rejected the appeal in a ruling Thursday, saying “there is no substance” to Rivas’s assertion that the magistrate “engaged in a rubber-stamping exercise and nothing more” when approving the extradition ruling.

Abraham ordered Rivas to pay the Chilean government’s court costs. She can still appeal the judgment before a full bench of the federal court in Australia, the Associated Press reported.

In Chile, Rivas could face life imprisonment if found guilty. Authorities there say that she worked as an assistant to the head of the National Intelligence Directorate, Manual Contreras. Under his leadership, the directorate operated in secret and helped wage a brutal campaign against Pinochet’s opponents and other dissidents in the 1970s, when more than 3,000 people were killed or disappeared in the violence.

Another 40,000 people survived imprisonment or torture by Pinochet’s right-wing government, according to Amnesty International.

Chilean authorities allege Rivas kidnapped seven people, including a pregnant woman. None of the victims were ever found. They also say she played a major role in interrogating victims at a barracks for prisoners in the capital, Santiago, based on the testimony of a former servant there.

Rivas’s lawyers say she was not an agent of the secret police but instead engaged in menial tasks such as making coffee and collecting laundry.