Sydney woman can be extradited to Chile

Margaret Scheikowski
·2-min read

A Sydney woman accused of kidnapping seven people during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet can be extradited to Chile, in what lobbyists describe as a landmark case.

"We are happy that Australia is on the side of human rights and it respects human rights," advocate Adriana Navarro told reporters outside Central Local Court on Thursday.

"It's the very first case of its kind and it was extremely important."

Adriana Rivas, 67, has been in custody since her arrest by NSW police in February 2019 following a request from Chile for her extradition.

She's accused of being a former operative for Chile's police and being involved in the disappearance of seven people, including a woman who was five months' pregnant, in the 1970s.

The Chilean government alleges she was part of a Direccion de Inteligencia Nacional brigade that physically and psychologically tortured members of the communist party who opposed Pinochet's regime.

Magistrate Philip Stewart on Thursday dismissed her legal team's objections and ruled she was eligible for extradition.

Her rejected grounds included that the allegations related to a "political" offence and that the people were not kidnapped but arrested.

Rivas, who immigrated to Australia in the late 1970s and worked as a nanny, has 15 days to seek a review of the decision.

She denies having been a "co-perpetrator" in the alleged aggravated kidnappings, arguing that while she was working for someone who reported to the head of DINA, it was a mundane secretarial job.

Mr Stewart referred to the "sufficient material" before him in identifying Rivas as being part of DINA and the "ample material" indicating agents were part of a criminal group.

Outside court, her lawyer Frank Santisi described the magistrate's decision as disappointing.

He had yet to obtain instructions about an appeal from his client who was a "strong woman" who continued to deny any wrongdoing.

"She says she had no idea about these things and was not involved in these things," he told reporters.

During an interview with SBS in 2013, Rivas admitted being a member of DINA but denied any wrongdoing.

Ms Navarro, a Chilean-born lawyer, has been lobbying the federal government since 2014 to honour an extradition treaty between the two nations and send Rivas back to her home country.

She told reporters it was difficult hearing the magistrate refer to reports about the brutality of DINA.

This included the interrogation, torture and killing of political detainees and the burning of fingerprints so victims would not be identified.

The magistrate also cited a statement that women were disguised as secretaries but were actually agents.

"We are just waiting for the day she returns to Chile," Ms Navarro said.