Pinochet family members detained

Arrests come after judge charges them and six retired generals in embezzlement case.

    Jacquelin, Pinochet's daughter, visited a Santiago police station as part of the case [Reuters]

    Hiriart was transferred to the Santiago military hospital after suffering a rise in blood pressure and requested that she remain under arrest there, according to Pablo Rodriguez, a family lawyer.
     
    Rodriguez said the charges and arrests would be appealed.
     
    "I am astonished by this illegal and abusive decision by the judge, and I am sure that it will be reversed by the court of appeals," he said.
     
    Al Jazeera's South American correspondent said: "Many thought that once Pinochet was dead, the case would be dropped, but it's actually turning out to be one of these 'better late than never' stories.
     
    "We are seeing a much more decisive judiciary."
     
    Generals named
     
    Those charged on Thursdsay included at least six retired army generals - Jorge Ballerino, Guillermo Garin, Juan Romero, Hector Letelier, Sergio Moreno and Ramon Castro - as well as lower-ranking officers; Monica Ananias, Pinochet's longtime secretary; and Ambrosio Rodriguez, one of his lawyers.
     
    Ballerino and Rodriguez were also hospitalised with high blood pressure, according to corrections officials.
     
    Judge Carlos Cerda said he ordered the arrests because of "solid indications that they had participated in the misuse of fiscal funds" during Pinochet's 1973-90 rule.
     
    Cerda was to decide whether to keep them in custody or free them to stand trial.
     
    Mixed reactions
     
    Reaction to the arrests varied widely, reflecting the deep divisions Pinochet still inspires almost 10 months after he died last December at age 91 while under indictment on human rights and corruption charges.

    In the lower house of congress, pro-government legislators celebrated by singing the national anthem.
     

    Pinochet's rule from 1973 to 1990 has left
    behind a highly polarised society

    But a group of about 20 people, some carrying photographs and even small statues of Pinochet, gathered at the military hospital chanting slogans in support of him and his widow.
     
    Cristian Labbe, a retired army colonel, who was a close aide to Pinochet and visited Hiriart at the hospital, called the indictments "cruel" and "a blow to efforts for reconciliation among Chileans".
     
    Angelica Cristia, conservative congresswoman, suggested a political motivation for the arrests, saying: "It's curious that something like this happens right at a time when we hear a new opinion poll showing government approval continues to drop."
     
    Political motivation?
     
    Cerda's ruling is related to an investigation into the multimillion-dollar accounts that Pinochet controlled at the Riggs Bank in Washington and other foreign banks.
     
    According to court papers, some of those accounts may have been fed with funds from the so-called Military House, an office that aided Pinochet's military activities during the dictatorship. Pinochet remained an army commander during his long rule.
     
    Cerda estimated that some $7.9 million were illegally diverted from the Military House.
     
    Pinochet and his associates have steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, insisting the sources of the bank accounts were legitimate savings and investments, plus donations Pinochet received.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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