January 2, 2006

Mixed results for Chile’s Pinochet in court ruling

SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet
remained under house arrest on Monday after a Chilean appeals
court approved bail in connection with some human rights
charges against him but did not rule on others.

Pinochet, who ruled Chile for 17 years after leading a 1973
coup, has been under house arrest since November on kidnapping
charges related to the disappearance and presumed death of at
least nine leftists in a government crackdown during his regime
that became known as Operation Colombo.

The court allowed the 90-year-old retired general to post
bail of 10 million pesos ($19,400) in six of those
disappearances. But a judge told reporters the defense would
have to submit a separate bail request in three other cases.

Pinochet's legal problems have grown in recent months as he
fights accusations of human rights abuse and tax fraud.

On Monday Pinochet's associates and family submitted
handwriting samples as part of an investigation into falsified
bank documents related to a $27 million tax fraud case.

Operation Colombo involved the disappearance of 119 members
of an armed revolutionary group in the mid-1970s.

Pinochet's regime is accused of covering up their deaths by
planting false news stories saying members of the Revolutionary
Leftist Movement killed each other in an internal clash.

Pinochet ruled during an era in which an estimated 3,000
people died in political violence and some 28,000 people were
tortured, according to official reports.

Chile returned to democracy in 1990 and has been under the
rule of a center-left coalition ever since. But judges here
began to investigate human rights cases against Pinochet only
five years ago.