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Chile’s Supreme Court Drops Pinochet Indictment

BY Admin  December 20, 2000 at 11:50 AM EST

The five-member panel voted 4-1 in favor of the 85-year-old general, Justice Humberto Espejo told Chilean radio.

The Supreme Court’s decision says Chilean Judge Juan Guzman acted illegally by indicting Pinochet — and ordering him placed under house arrest — without questioning him.

Guzman indicted Pinochet Dec. 1 on charges that he orchestrated the “Caravan of Death,” a military operation that captured and killed 73 political prisoners shortly after a military coup brought the general to power in 1973.

But Pinochet’s legal troubles aren’t over yet. The Supreme Court ordered Guzman to conduct a formal interrogation of the former dictator in the next 20 days. Pinochet will also have to undergo psychological tests to determine his mental fitness before further charges can be brought against him.

Defense lawyer Ambrosio Rodriguez said he hopes the tests will end years of debate over whether Pinochet is medically fit to stand trial.

“Finally, once and for all, there will be an end to this matter,” Rodriguez said in Monday’s Santiago Times.

But opposition lawyer Hugo Gutierrez said today Pinochet could still face prosecution.

“This was a victory with some taste of defeat for Pinochet,” he told the Associated Press. “I would say Pinochet remains almost indicted.”

Guzman 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 were 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.