Archive for Saturday, July 22, 2000

Court postpones ruling on trial for Pinochet

July 22, 2000


— Chile's Supreme Court on Friday delayed a decision on whether Gen. Augusto Pinochet will be tried on what prosecutors charge was one of the most notorious human rights abuses of his 17-year dictatorship.

The court set no date for a ruling after three days of hearings, but Chief Justice Hernan Alvarez said "we hope everything will be decided by next week or at least the following."

After closing the hearings, the court also postponed deciding on a request by Pinochet's defense to have him undergo medical tests, hoping to prove he is unfit to stand trial.

Alvarez said the 20 justices will meet Tuesday "to start carefully examining" arguments in the case, which involves eight plaintiffs.

The court was hearing Pinochet's appeal of a lower tribunal ruling last month that stripped him of his congressional immunity. If the Supreme Court upholds that ruling, Pinochet could be tried in the case known as "the caravan of death."

The caravan was a military squad that traveled several cities shortly after the 1973 coup led by Pinochet, executing 72 jailed dissidents. Nineteen of the victims have never been found.

The lawyers arguing against Pinochet Friday insisted that the 84-year-old former ruler was responsible for the actions of the caravan, because its commander, Gen. Sergio Arellano, had been appointed by him.

The day before, Pinochet's lawyer, Ricardo Rivadeneira, had argued that Arellano didn't take orders from Pinochet.

The lawyers for the plaintiffs replied that in addition to being head of the ruling junta, Pinochet was commander of the army and therefore Arellano's direct superior.

Rivadeneira has insisted that Pinochet's health denies him a fair trial because he can't properly organize his defense or even meet with his lawyers.

The former dictator suffers from diabetes, carries a pacemaker and sustained three mild strokes during his 16-month house arrest in London.

He was released last March after British doctors said he was mentally and physically unfit to stand trial. He had been arrested at the request of a Spanish judge wanting to try him.

The case that may drag Pinochet to court is one of 146 criminal complaints filed against him for deaths and disappearances blamed on his 1973-90 regime.

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