November 24, 2005

Pinochet charged in human rights case

SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Former Chilean dictator Augusto
Pinochet was indicted on Thursday for the second time in two
days, this time for three disappearances that are a part of a
1974 human rights case.

The formal charges were for the crime of "permanent
kidnappings," which in Chile's legal system refers to people
who were arrested by state forces and are presumed dead but
whose bodies have never been found.

Judge Victor Montiglio, who is also the prosecutor in the
case, issued the charges and put Pinochet under house arrest, a
court source told Reuters.

Pinochet, who will turn 90 on Friday, had just been granted
bail on Thursday morning in another case.

On Wednesday, he was charged with tax fraud, passport
forgery, using false documents and incomplete reporting of his
assets in a separate case involving an estimated $28 million he
hid in foreign bank accounts.

Over the last five years, Pinochet was charged in two other
human rights cases, but they were thrown out by courts who
ruled that his mild dementia, caused by frequent mini-strokes,
made him unfit to face trial.

Human rights lawyers say 119 leftists were taken prisoner
by Chile's secret police and killed in 1974 in the case that is
now known as Operation Colombo. They say the Pinochet regime
planted fake news stories in 1975 in Argentina and Brazil
alleging the dissidents had died fighting among themselves.

Pinochet, who led a 1973 military coup that launched his
17-year dictatorship, lost his immunity from prosecution in
Operation Colombo in September. The Supreme Court at that time
said he could face criminal charges related to 15 of the
disappeared people in the case.

More than 3,000 people died in political violence during
Pinochet's 1973-90 rule, when tens of thousands more were
tortured or exiled.