Victim who prompted action was student leader

July 26, 1995|By Ginger Thompson and Gary Cohn | Ginger Thompson and Gary Cohn,Sun Staff Correspondents

Milton Jimenez, the man whose torture a decade ago is central to indictments brought against Honduran military officers Tegucigalpa yesterday, described his treatment to The Sun last year.

He led students at the National Autonomous University of Honduras in demonstrations against tuition increases, dress codes and censorship of books. He and other students also protested against the U.S. presence in their country and against the Honduran military regime.

On April 27, 1982, Mr. Jimenez, then a 20-year-old law student, was arrested at his home by members of a secret Honduran military unit, Battalion 316. He said he was taken to a clandestine jail and tortured. At one point, Mr. Jimenez said, his torturers told him they were going to kill him. They stood him before a firing squad that aimed its guns but never fired.

"They said they were finishing my grave . . . I was convinced that I was going to die," he told The Sun.

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Jimenez was renting a bedroom in the home of an assistant attorney general of Honduras, Rafael Rivera Torres. Five other students, including Mr. Rivera's two daughters, Suyapa and Gilda, were abducted by the battalion and tortured.

Gilda Rivera told The Sun she was kept blindfolded and naked by her captors. She said they told her they had killed her sister.

The women were freed after six days. Eventually, Mr. Jimenez and a law school colleague were charged with participating in "totalitarian activities against the republican and democratic government of Honduras." The proof: hard-bound copies of the complete works of Lenin allegedly owned by the prisoners.

Mr. Jimenez said he did not own such books. "It is not that I thought it was bad to read them, but those kinds of books were very expensive and almost inaccessible to a university student."

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