January 9, 2006

Chile’s Pinochet granted bail in human rights case

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Former Chilean dictator Augusto
Pinochet was granted bail on Monday after seven weeks of house
arrest on charges related to the disappearance and presumed
death of three leftists during his 17-year rule.

The motion by Judge Victor Montiglio, who suggested a bail
of $19,000, must be ratified by the court of appeals and a
ruling is expected this week.

Pinochet, 90, ran Chile from 1973-1990, an era in which an
estimated 3,000 people died in political violence and some
28,000 people were tortured.

Last week the court of appeals ratified bail for the
retired general in the cases of six other leftists kidnapped
and presumed killed as part of a government crackdown during
the Pinochet regime that became known as Operation Colombo.

Operation Colombo involved the disappearance of 119 members
of an armed revolutionary group in the mid-1970s, but Pinochet
has so far only been indicted in a handful of those.

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

Many Chilean former military officers have been convicted
of human rights abuses during the Pinochet era, but Pinochet
himself has never gone on trial because in other human rights
cases the Supreme Court accepted the defense argument that the
former dictator is too ill to stand trial.

Pinochet has been diagnosed with mild dementia caused by
frequent mini-strokes.