November 16, 2005

Pinochet tells judge God will pardon him

SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Chilean former dictator Augusto
Pinochet told a judge he doesn't believe there were excesses
during his 17-year rule, and if there were God would pardon
him, a human rights lawyer said on Wednesday.

"Everything I did, all my actions, all of the problems I
had I dedicate to God and to Chile, because I kept Chile from
becoming Communist," Pinochet told a judge regarding the 1973
military coup that launched him to power, according to Hernan

Quezada, a lawyer who represents families of human rights
victims, said he viewed transcripts of Judge Victor Montiglio's
recent interrogations of Pinochet.

"I regret and suffer those losses, but it's God's will. He
will pardon me if I committed excesses, but I don't think I
did," Pinochet told Montiglio, Quezada said.

Montiglio is prosecuting a human rights case known as
Operation Colombo, in which 119 leftists died in 1975. Pinochet
is accused of responsibility in the deaths and of planting
false press reports saying the armed rebels killed each other.

Montiglio has questioned Pinochet in his Santiago home
three times recently as he weighs issuing a formal indictment.

Pinochet, 89 and now completely sidelined from Chilean
politics, ruled the country from 1973 to 1990, a period when
over 3,000 people died in political violence and tens of
thousands more were tortured or exiled.

The Supreme Court has removed Pinochet's immunity from
prosecution in a handful of human rights cases, but he has
never been tried because of mild dementia caused by frequent
mini-strokes related to diabetes.

Montiglio in recent weeks ordered Pinochet, who also has
heart problems, to undergo psychiatric and physical exams.

"The examinations prove conclusively that from a
psychiatric standpoint, Pinochet is a normal person who is
capable of withstanding a judicial process," Quezada said.

Pinochet would be tried under Chile's old judicial system,
which does not have open court hearings, just private
interviews that the prosecuting judge reviews on paper.

"The experts all agree that in these exams Pinochet ...
tried to make the symptoms of his neurological illness appear
graver than they really are," he said.

Pinochet spokesmen were not available for comment, and his
chief attorney declined to speak with reporters.

Pinochet is also being investigated on accusations of
embezzlement, fraud and tax evasion in a case that involves
scores of foreign bank accounts and tens of millions of

(Additional reporting by Erik Lopez)