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Court Halts Pinochet Trial Citing Health

BY Admin  July 9, 2001 at 1:30 PM EDT

A panel of three judges at the Santiago Court of Appeals voted 2-1 today to suspend legal action unless Pinochet’s health improves. The ruling effectively ends legal action against him.

Doctors say Pinochet, 85, is suffering from dementia and is mentally unfit to stand trial.

The former dictator has also been treated for high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. Pinochet has a pacemaker and has had at least three mild strokes since 1998.

Pinochet was to be charged in connection with the killings of 75 of his political opponents during a military campaign known as the “Caravan of Death,” which occurred after he ousted Marxist President Salvador Allende in 1973.

Prosecutors allege Pinochet knew of cover-ups surrounding 18 “disappearances” and 57 homicides. The former dictator has been under house arrest since Jan. 29.

“It is a defeat for justice in Chile, for an end to impunity and for the deepening of democracy in this country,” prosecuting lawyer Carmen Hertz said of the decision.

The decision could be appealed, but many say it’s unlikely Pinochet will ever stand trial.

“I think, unfortunately, that this is as far as the Pinochet case goes,” prosecution lawyer Juan Bustos told reporters.

Human rights groups have vocally pushed for Pinochet to stand trial. They say the former strongman was behind the deaths of around 3,000 suspected leftists during his 17-year reign.