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Chile summons Swiss ambassador over fugitive

Patricio Ortiz Montenegro has been living in Switzerland since 1997

(Keystone)

A row has broken out between Chile and Switzerland over Bern’s decision to allow a former Chilean rebel fighter to stay in the country.

The Chilean foreign ministry has summoned the Swiss ambassador to Santiago, André Regli, to protest against the move.

The Federal Migration Office announced on Wednesday that Patricio Ortiz Montenegro had been given a temporary residency permit.

Ortiz was convicted of killing a police officer in 1991 but escaped from a Chilean prison five years later.

Chile’s Foreign Minister Ignacio Walker says, however, that he has received "official information", indicating that Ortiz has been granted refugee status.

"We think this is a contradiction, considering the seriousness of the crime which was committed," said Walker on Wednesday.

He summoned Regli for a meeting on Thursday to express Chile’s displeasure and ask for clarification of Ortiz’s status in Switzerland.

According to Chilean media, Regli has said that he regrets the diplomatic incident and does not want bilateral relations between the two countries to be affected.

Guerrilla group

Ortiz was a member of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front, a rebel group that fought against the 1973-1990 dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

In 1991 he received a ten-year sentence for killing a police officer. But Ortiz and three other members of his group broke out of a maximum-security prison in an elaborate helicopter escape in 1996.

Ortiz made his way to Europe and settled in Switzerland, marrying a Swiss woman, according to Chilean officials.

Walker has said his government would use all available means to ensure Ortiz is returned to Chile to serve out his sentence. An attempt to extradite Ortiz from Switzerland failed three years ago.

Ortiz, speaking to Chilean journalists in Switzerland, said he had received refugee status and considered himself the target of political persecution in Chile.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Chile has summoned the Swiss ambassador to Santiago to explain the status of a former Chilean rebel fighter living in Switzerland.

Swiss officials say he has a temporary residence permit, Chile says he may have been granted refugee status.

Patricio Ortiz Montenegro was member of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front which fought the Pinochet regime. He escaped from prison in Chile while serving a sentence for killing a police officer.

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