Judge declares Pinochet “fit” to stand trial

14 December 2004 |

The former general, who has been accused of involvement in killings linked to the ‘Condor’ operation, will be kept under house arrest until his trial

Judge Juan Guzman yesterday indicted former General Augusto Pinochet for his involvement in the ‘Condor’ operation, while he had Chile under military rule between 1973 and 1990. The judge also ruled that Pinochet be kept under house arrest. Last night the former dictator’s defence lawyer was planning to lodge an appeal for legal protection with the Supreme Court.

The judge has indicted Pinochet on charges connected with ordering nine “permanent kidnappings” (disappearances) and one killing as part of the kidnappings and killings carried out during the Condor operation. Condor was set up among a number of South American dictatorships, including Chile, in the 70s and 80s to persecute and wipe out the opposition. Judge Guzman said: “I had no difficulty taking this decision once I had examined all the testimonies and elements in the case as well as the perceptions deriving from them… it was very easy. The difficult part was, of course, to examine and analyse everything.”

The judge said Pinochet was fit to stand trial: “General Pinochet is fit to stand trial in all its different phases including the declarations that form part of the investigation and those face to face with witnesses”. He added that “one of the elements taken into consideration” to indict the former general was the interview he had given to a Miami TV channel in November 2003. Until now doctors have cited mental health problems to declare Pinochet “unfit” to stand trial.

Yesterday the former general’s lawyer gave the following reason for lodging an appeal against the decision: “We’re going to file an appeal right away, because we believe that the decision is a disgraceful abuse and because it is a violation of human rights, claimed so often in this country, and because they want to put a person, who is not in a position to defend himself, on trail.”

This is the second time the 89-year-old Pinochet has been indicted. In 2000 Judge Guzman himself brought charges against him in connection with the “Caravan of Death” but the case had to be dropped in 2001 as a result of the report by two of the three psychiatric experts and neurologists who examined the former leader. Nevertheless, Pinochet is now facing charges in another case in connection with the death of the army chief Carlos Prats and his wife. Not long ago Judge Alejandro Solis decided to strip Pinochet of his immunity and indict him; the Appeal Court in Santiago later upheld the decision.

The multi-million accounts he has with the Riggs Banks are also under investigation. In Spain Judge Baltasar Garzon brought charges against him “in connection with the illegal acquisition of wealth, genocide and state terrorism”.

The Crimes of Augusto Pinochet