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Court Reduces Pinochet Charges

The 2-1 ruling edges the retired general closer to facing trial for some of the alleged human rights abuses committed during his 1973-1990 rule in Chile, but reduces the severity of the accusations against him.

Pinochet had originally been indicted and placed under house arrest Jan. 29 on charges he helped organize the “Caravan of Death,” a military operation that captured and killed as many as 75 political prisoners shortly after a military coup brought him to power in 1973. The remains of 18 of the victims have never been found.

Plaintiffs in the case say Pinochet masterminded the operation, but the retired general’s lawyers appealed the indictment, calling the charges “arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional.”

Moreover, Pinochet’s legal team has argued the 85-year-old former dictator is in failing health and is too weak to stand trial. Doctors in January diagnosed Pinochet with “moderate dementia” caused by minor strokes. He also suffers from diabetes and arthritis and has been fitted with a pacemaker.

For the prosecution, today’s decision was seen as a limited victory.

Lawyer Hiram Villagra told the Associated Press the ruling at least “confirms that Pinochet had participation in the criminal acts. But it cannot be considered a mere cover-up, because Pinochet gave the orders.”

Prosecutors say they will take the next few days to consider their options, including what to do if Pinochet’s lawyers appeal today’s ruling to the Supreme Court.

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