December 28, 2005

Chile fingerprints Pinochet as rights case builds

By Antonio de la Jara

SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Chilean police took mug shots
and fingerprinted former ruler Augusto Pinochet on Wednesday
over his indictment related to the murder and disappearance of
leftist opponents under his dictatorship.

Judge Victor Montiglio requested the shots and prints to
create a police file on the former strongman, court officials
said. It was the first time courts had ordered mugshots and
fingerprints of Pinochet.

Separately, Montiglio ruled to grant bail for Pinochet,
under house arrest since November, although the motion must be
ratified by the court of appeals. He set bail at $47,000.

Pinochet, 90, has been under house arrest in his Santiago
mansion for nearly one month in connection with Operation
Colombo, in which 119 members of a leftist rebel group
disappeared during his 1973-1990 rule and are presumed dead.

The mug shots on Friday add to Pinochet's legal woes, which
have been building over recent months and which even saw his
wife and son briefly arrested.

"This is insulting but what pains us the most is not that a
police record has been made for a former president but that
there are no legal grounds to do so," said Pablo Rodriguez,
Pinochet's attorney.

"This is an arbitrary procedure by the judge," he said.

Human rights lawyers and the government of socialist
President Ricardo Lagos said they were pleased to see standard
court procedure upheld, saying it was proof the once-powerful
general would not get special treatment by the courts.

"Once more in Chile we can happily affirm that there is
equality before the law and that the courts of justice are
functioning impeccably," said government spokesman Osvaldo

The police record includes front and side-view photographs
of the accused and prints of all 10 fingers.

Under Pinochet, about 3,000 suspected leftists were
"disappeared" or killed and another 28,000 were tortured,
according to government reports.

Pinochet lost a key appeal before the Supreme Court on
Monday and must now face the first of a series of human rights
charges against him related to Operation Colombo.

In November he was also indicted for tax fraud and other
crimes related to some $27 million hidden in foreign bank

(Additional reporting by Erik Lopez and Lorena Ormeno)