Two days short of his 90th birthday, Gen. Augusto Pinochet was placed under house arrest Wednesday at his Santiago mansion for alleged tax evasion - not the thousands of deaths and disappearances for which opponents have long tried to have him imprisoned.
Lawyers pursuing the former dictator said the indictment on corruption charges related to his multimillion-dollar overseas accounts still was a major victory. Several relatives of the dictatorship's victims cheered and embraced at the courthouse.
Pinochet's attorneys immediately appealed the ruling on grounds of his ill health, the same factor that has blocked earlier trials.
Pinochet was charged with evading $2.4 million in taxes, using four false passports to open bank accounts abroad, submitting a false government document to a foreign bank and filing a false report on his assets.
But Judge Carlos Cerda said Pinochet does not pose any danger at his age and could be freed on a $22,000 bond that would have to be approved by the Santiago Court of Appeals.
It was the first time the retired general was indicted for charges not related to the massive human rights abuses during his 1973-90 regime.
But a trial was not guaranteed. Pinochet was indicted twice before on human rights charges, but courts blocked the trials on health grounds. Two other prosecution attempts were stopped for the same reason at earlier stages.