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Pinochet Must Face Kidnapping Charges

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  • Clore Daniel C
    Chilean judge orders Pinochet to stand trial on kidnapping charges December 1, 2000 Web posted at: 1:07 p.m. EST (1807 GMT) SANTIAGO, Chile -- Former Chilean
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2000
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      Chilean judge orders Pinochet to stand trial on kidnapping
      charges

      December 1, 2000
      Web posted at: 1:07 p.m. EST (1807 GMT)

      SANTIAGO, Chile -- Former Chilean ruler Gen. Augusto
      Pinochet was ordered to return to house arrest on Friday,
      this time in his native Chile, after a judge ordered him to
      stand trial on kidnapping charges stemming from his
      iron-fisted 1973 to 1990 rule.

      Pinochet was indicted in connection with the disappearance
      of 19 prisoners at the hands of the so-called "caravan of
      death" in the early months of his presidency.

      "It helps in many ways to reestablish the credibility of the
      Chilean judiciary," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive
      director of Human Rights Watch-Americas Division. "The judge
      in charge of the case, Judge Juan Guzman, has been doing
      very thorough and careful work and this is a historic
      development in terms of the fight against impunity for
      atrocities in Chile."

      Pinochet had been placed under house arrest in 1998 in
      London, where he remained for 16 months while international
      lawyers wrangled with a Spanish judge's request for his
      extradition on human rights abuse charges.

      The ailing former dictator returned to Chile in March,
      however, after British Home Secretary Jack Straw eventually
      ruled that he was too ill to stand trial.

      A Chilean government report said that more than 3,000 people
      "disappeared" or were killed under the watch of Pinochet,
      who ruled after wresting control from democratically elected
      Socialist President Salvador Allende.

      Allende was killed during the coup.

      Pinochet's health may yet keep him from standing trial. The
      judge handling the case in Santiago has ordered medical and
      neurological tests to determine Pinochet's fitness, and
      Chilean law requires psychological tests for anyone over 70
      facing trial.

      The Chilean courts, once loyal to Pinochet, had earlier
      stripped the ailing Pinochet of immunity from prosecution he
      claimed as senator for life, a position he assumed when he
      left the presidency in 1990.

      Chilean judge orders arrest, trial of ex-dictator Augusto
      Pinochet

      FEDERICO QUILODRAN

      SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) - The case against Augusto Pinochet
      moved forward Friday, with a Chilean judge indicting the
      former dictator on kidnapping charges and ordering him to
      face trial in the disappearance of 19 prisoners.

      The two charges stem from 187 criminal complaints lodged
      against Pinochet for alleged human rights violations
      committed during his 17-year rule, which ended in 1990. The
      disappearances mentioned in Friday's charges happened in
      1973, in the first months of Pinochet's regime.

      Judge Juan Guzman said he also ordered the 85-year-old
      former strongman placed under house arrest.

      Pinochet's lawyers have been trying to keep him from going
      to trial, saying he is in ill health. Guzman has ordered
      psychiatric and physical tests, and those are pending. The
      judge will determine if Pinochet goes on trial.

      Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas
      division of the New York-based group Human Rights Watch,
      called the indictment "an excellent development" and said it
      helps "re-establish the credibility of the Chilean
      judiciary."

      But supporters of the former dictator denounced it as a
      travesty of justice.

      "This is an aberration of jurisprudence," said lawyer
      Fernando Barros, who has frequently spoken in defense of
      Pinochet. He said the indictment was an attempt by "certain
      persons" intended on changing historical truths.

      Last week, Pinochet made a hesitant admission of
      responsibility for atrocities the military committed during
      his rule, saying in a taped message for his birthday that he
      accepts "all the facts."

      "As a former president of the republic, I accept all the
      facts that they say the army and the armed forces did,"
      Pinochet said, speaking hesitatingly. But he also added that
      some of the accusations against his government are just
      propaganda.

      Pinochet made similar statements last year in a "Letter to
      Chileans," a lengthy document he sent home from London while
      he was under house arrest there.

      According to a report by the civilian government that
      succeeded Pinochet, 3,197 people disappeared or were killed
      while he was in power.

      Pinochet was kept under house arrest in London from October
      1998 until he was freed in March because of health problems.
      He returned to an elected, civilian democracy in Chile and
      found himself facing emboldened courts and prosecutors. He
      had long been considered untouchable.

      Guzman, a federal magistrate who has led efforts to
      prosecute Pinochet, confirmed the indictment upon leaving a
      Santiago courthouse, as did lawyers for both sides. He said
      Pinochet was also wanted on suspicion of being the
      "intellectual author" of some 55 deaths - as well as the 19
      disappearances.

      Those cases stem from the so-called Caravan of Death, one of
      the most notorious human rights cases during Pinochet's
      rule. In the first weeks after a September 1973 coup led by
      Pinochet, military officers led a flying death squad along
      the length of Chile, pulling suspected opponents from jails
      for execution, human rights groups charge.

      --
      ---------------------------------------------------
      Dan Clore

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