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Burglaries hit homes of 3 reporters who investigated human rights crimes of Pinochet era

Three Chilean reporters investigating human rights violations during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet have had break-ins at their homes over just a few days, press groups say.

The home of Mauricio Weibel, the Chile correspondent for Germany's biggest news agency, DPA, was broken into over the weekend and a computer with files of his investigations was stolen, the agency said Monday.

The group Reporters Without Borders reported break-ins at the homes of reporters Cristobal Pena, author of the book "The Executors," and independent journalist Javier Rebolledo, author of the book "Dance of the Crows."

"All of the reporters who are suffering this kind of intimidation are reporters who have investigated human rights violations or who have had to testify because of our investigations," Weibel said Monday outside an appeals court after asking for a preventive protection measure.

Weibel recently reported on previously classified documents about the role of military intelligence during the 1973-1990 Pinochet regime.

Pena was given the New Journalism award by Gabriel Garcia Marquez's New Iberoamerican Journalism Foundation for his story "A Trip to the Depths of Pinochet's Library."

Reporters Without Borders said burglars took a hard drive from Rebolledo that contained information about probes of dictatorship-era crimes. Rebolledo's book deals with human rights violations by Pinochet's feared secret police.

Reporters Without Borders urged Chilean authorities to fully and rapidly investigate the cases and provide protection for the journalists and their families.

Weibel said the government had provided a police patrol at his home but he urged protection for other journalists.

DPA's editor-in-chief, Wolfgang Buechner, said Chile's government "has the duty to protect the freedom of the press and to prevent intimidation of journalists with all means at its disposal."

Presidential spokeswoman Cecilia Perez denounced the crimes Tuesday and said the government stands by the correspondents and their families.

"There has been violence and delinquency against correspondents in our country," Perez said. "They have made their reports in conversations with me and the interior minister, and security measures have been established so that they and their families can have the tranquility that nothing else will happen. Independently, we're waiting for the courts to act so these types of things happen less to journalists in the course of their job."

Last year, President Sebastian Pinera's government officially recognized 9,800 more victims of the dictatorship. That increased the total list of people killed, tortured or imprisoned for political reasons during Pinochet's regime to 40,018. The government estimates 3,095 of those were killed.

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Associated Press writers Juergen Baetz in Berlin, Germany, and Eva Vergara in Santiago, Chile, contributed to this report.

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Luis Andres Henao is on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LuisAndresHenao

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Online:

Reporters Without Borders statement: http://en.rsf.org/chile-break-in-at-home-of-reporter-who-16-12-2012,43799.html