Archive for Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Pinochet indicted on human rights charges

December 14, 2004


— A Chilean judge, known for pursuing human rights violators, indicted former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet on Monday on charges of kidnapping nine political dissidents and killing one of them during his 17-year military regime.

Pinochet also was placed under house arrest to await this third attempt to try him for abuse allegations during his rule in the South American country.

But the aging general's defense team quickly filed an injunction with the Santiago Court of Appeals, effectively freezing the house arrest until the court rules on it, probably in the next day or two.

Judge Juan Guzman said he decided to try the 89-year-old retired general -- reversing a previous court decision to exempt Pinochet from trial on health grounds -- after questioning him and examining reports from doctors.

"Gen. Pinochet has been declared mentally competent to face a criminal trial in Chile," Guzman ruled.

The defense appealed on the grounds that Pinochet suffers from worsening dementia. The pretrial legal proceedings could take months.

Guzman has won a reputation as a crusader in prominent human rights cases, including a previous trial of Pinochet that was blocked by the Supreme Court three years ago on health grounds.

Pinochet also suffers from diabetes, arthritis and has a heart pacemaker.

A small group of victims of abuse during the Pinochet regime and their relatives celebrated Guzman's announcement in the court hallways.

"This is great news for all those Chileans who do not accept impunity in the violations of human rights," said Viviana Diaz, a member of an organization of relatives of dissidents who disappeared under Pinochet.

Guzman said he also was influenced by an interview Pinochet granted last year.

Pinochet told the station that he sees himself as "a good angel," and he blamed abuses on subordinates in his regime. Guzman said Pinochet's answers made him appear mentally alert.

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