Chilean Judge Juan Guzman ordered Pinochet placed under house arrest pending trial. The judge’s decision comes despite protests from Pinochet’s lawyers that the 85-year-old general cannot endure a court battle.
The kidnapping charges are among 187 complaints alleging Pinochet knew of and tolerated serious human rights violations during his tenure as the head of Chile’s military-dominated government from 1973 to 1990.
Last week, Pinochet made a hesitant admission of his responsibility for the alleged atrocities committed by the military during his years in power.
“As a former president of the republic, I accept all the facts that they say the army and the armed forces did,” Pinochet said in a taped message. But he also said some of the accusations are just propaganda.
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.
Those who support the general say the charges against him are more fiction than fact.
“This is an aberration of jurisprudence,” Fernando Barros, a lawyer and vocal Pinochet supporter, told the Associated Press. He said the move was a ploy by “certain persons” out to change historical truths.
Members of London-based Amnesty International, a proponent of several attempts to bring Pinochet to trial, were pleased to hear of his arrest.
“We welcome the fact that the wheels of justice seem to be moving in the right direction,” a group spokeswoman told Reuters. “For years there have been layers of impunity in Chile. At long last they are being peeled away.”
After disappearing from public view for years, Pinochet was arrested in London 1998. He spent over a year under house arrest in London while a Spanish judge worked to extradite him to stand trial for alleged human rights abuses. He was allowed to return to Chile in March after British officials ruled him mentally unfit to stand trial.
Guzman ordered psychiatric and physical tests to determine if and when Pinochet could be brought to trial.