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Pinochet arrested in Chile

Associated Press
Published November 24, 2005


SANTIAGO, Chile - Two days short of his 90th birthday, Gen. Augusto Pinochet was placed under house arrest Wednesday at his Santiago mansion over tax evasion allegations - not the thousands of deaths and disappearances for which opponents have long tried to have him imprisoned.

Lawyers pursuing the former dictator said the indictment on corruption charges related to his multimillion-dollar overseas accounts still was a major victory. Several relatives of the dictatorship's victims cheered and embraced at the courthouse.

Pinochet's attorneys immediately appealed the ruling on grounds of his ill health, the same factor that has blocked earlier trials.

Pinochet was charged with evading $2.4-million in taxes, using four false passports to open bank accounts abroad, submitting a false government document to a foreign bank and filing a false report on his assets.

But Judge Carlos Cerda said Pinochet does not pose any danger at his age and could be freed on a $22,000 bond that would have to be approved by the Santiago Court of Appeals. It was the first time the retired general was indicted for charges not related to the massive human rights abuses during his 1973-'90 regime.

Now a stooped, white-haired man who walks with difficulty, Pinochet is a far different figure from the scowling soldier in dark glasses and officer's cap who appeared at the head of the military junta that overthrew Chile's elected socialist government in 1973.

The coup set off a wave of terror and torture as the new government tried to root out communist influence by seizing thousands of suspected leftists.

According to an official report by the civilian government that succeeded Pinochet in 1990, 3,190 people were killed for political reasons during his regime. More than 1,000 others remain unaccounted for after being arrested.

[Last modified November 24, 2005, 00:19:08]


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