Immunity gone, Pinochet to face trial

Chile's supreme court has removed former dictator Augusto Pinochet's immunity from prosecution, to reopen a case against him involving the "Caravan of Death" murder squad that operated during his regime.

    Pinochet's lawyers argue he is too ill to stand trial (file photo)

    On Monday, the country's highest court accepted a petition to withdraw Pinochet's immunity as a former president so he could face charges involving the murder of two personal aides of former president, Salvador Allende, whose ouster in a 1973 coup led to Pinochet's 17-year authoritarian rule.

    The "Caravan of Death" was a military squad which travelled around the country killing dozens of people after the coup to eliminate opponents of the new regime.

    Six years ago, relatives of the dead and missing successfully had Pinochet, 90, charged in the "Caravan of Death" murders of 75 people after convincing the court to remove his immunity in that case.

    However, in July 2002 the supreme court halted the proceedings on the basis that the aged former dictator suffered from dementia and was not fit to stand trial.

    The two victims in the case heard on Monday were not listed among the 75 in the first case.

    Human rights abuse

    Allende (R) was ousted in a coup 
    led by Pinochet (L) (File photo)

    Lawyers fighting to see Pinochet tried over human rights abuses during his 1973-1990 regime were encouraged by Monday's ruling.

    Eduardo Contreras, the lawyer who led the new petition to remove Pinochet's immunity, said: "It might be possible to reverse that ruling of 2002 for an insanity that never existed.

    "We are getting closer and closer to justice."

    Pinochet's lawyers have fended off numerous human rights-related charges over the past several years citing his immunity and his health.

    He still faces charges on illicit enrichment and tax fraud in relation to secret accounts he and his family controlled in offshore banks.

    Last week as well, an investigative judge said that a document from the Pinochet regime ties him and his son to cocaine trafficking.

    Manuel Contreras, who founded Pinochet's feared secret police, gave the document to the judge, but Pinochet's family denied the accusation that they benefited from drug trafficking.

    SOURCE: AFP


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