July 17, 2006

Chile reopens emblematic rights case vs Pinochet

SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Chile's Supreme Court on Monday
reopened the first human rights case brought against
90-year-old former dictator Augusto Pinochet, four years after
it was thrown out because of his dementia.

Pinochet led a 17-year dictatorship in Chile after a 1973
coup and more than 3,000 people died in political violence and
tens of thousands were detained and tortured during the regime.

The so-called Caravan of Death case involved a tour of
Chile by army officers after the 1973 coup to execute dozens of
opponents and was the first human rights case to be brought
against Pinochet.

"This is such an emblematic case and now there is real
possibility that we could reverse the result in 2002 where
general Pinochet benefited from a craziness that never
existed," said Eduardo Contreras, a lawyer for the prosecution.

Pinochet lost immunity and was charged in the case in 2000,
but the Supreme Court threw out those charges in 2002 after his
lawyers successfully argued dementia made him unfit to defend
himself against the accusations.

But the former dictator has subsequently been stripped of
his immunity and is facing charges in other human rights cases.

Pinochet has been indicted on tax evasion charges related
to an estimated $27 million he held in offshore accounts. The
courts are also investigating embezzlement accusations against