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Court Drops Charges Against Pinochet

BY Admin  December 11, 2000 at 4:10 PM EDT

Hugo Gutierrez, a lawyer for the plaintiffs told the Associated Press the legal team opposing the 85-year-old general had expected the court to find for Pinochet.

“This was no surprise,” he said.

Carmen Hertz, an anti-Pinochet lawyer and the widow of a dissident killed during the Pinochet regime, said the court’s decision was based on “a mere technicality.”

But Pinochet supporters hailed the court’s decision.

“In a way, the big injustice against Gen. Augusto Pinochet has been corrected,” retired Col. Alberto Labbe, one of Pinochet’s closest associates, told the AP. “A light of hope for reconciliation among Chileans has emerged.”

Guzman indicted Pinochet Dec. 1 on charges that he orchestrated the “Caravan of Death,” a military operation that captured and killed political prisoners shortly after a military coup brought the general to power in 1973.

The judge charged Pinochet with homicide for 55 of the victims whose bodies were found and with kidnapping for 18 others, whose whereabouts are still unknown.

The charges are among 187 complaints alleging Pinochet tacitly sanctioned serious human rights violations during his tenure as the head of Chile’s military-dominated government from 1973 to 1990.

More than 3,000 political dissidents and their families disappeared or were killed while Pinochet was in power, according to the civilian government that succeeded him in 1990. Human rights activists suspect Pinochet orchestrated killings and kidnappings through a secret police force.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say they will appeal the 3-0 vote to the country’s Supreme Court. That body could rule as early as Thursday.