Remember-Chile
HOME

Pinochet for beginners

News

Links

-

Inside the dictatorship

Comment

Activities

English
Espanol
Search site

Testimonies

Declarations & Statements

Letters

The New York Times, 30.1.01

Judge Reinstates Pinochet Case With New Order for House Arrest. By CLIFFORD KRAUSS

SANTIAGO, Chile, Jan. 29 - An investigating judge reinstated his case against Gen. Augusto Pinochet today, signaling that he intends to proceed with a case that has reawakened Chile's ghosts.

Judge Juan Guzmán charged General Pinochet with being a co-conspirator in the murders and kidnappings of 75 leftists after the coup that brought him to power in 1973 and ordered that he be placed under house arrest for the second time in two months.

The general's lawyers suggested that they will appeal, which could delay any confinement and a trial for weeks, if not months, largely on the ground that the 85-year-old retired general is not physically well enough to defend himself in court.

The previous arrest order, in early December, was reversed by the Supreme Court. It ruled that Judge Guzmán had neglected to interrogate General Pinochet first and to put him through psychological and neurological tests to determine whether he was able to stand trial before arresting and charging him.

Judge Guzmán fulfilled those requirements over the last three weeks and issued his order today. Should the courts uphold the new order, the once omnipotent dictator will be fingerprinted and photographed in his house here by the same police force that he once commanded.

As the judicial process moves on, though, Judge Guzmán or appellate courts could decide that General Pinochet is mentally unfit to stand trial and halt the proceedings.

An examination found that General Pinochet suffered from "moderate dementia," a loss of some memory from a series of minor strokes. That finding is open to interpretation, and could eventually free him.

In his deposition last week, General Pinochet declared his innocence to Judge Guzmán. But the judge said he had enough evidence to proceed.

The arrest order is no surprise. But 100 family members of the more than 3,000 people who were executed or who disappeared in the dictatorship from 1973 to 1990 sang and hugged one another outside the Supreme Court in downtown Santiago when they heard of the arrest order.

Human rights advocates were ecstatic.

"Without doubt, this is a historic day for justice and for all the people of Chile," said Carmen Hertz, a lawyer who represents families of human rights victims.

Holding back tears, Viviana Díaz, the leader of the group of family members of the disappeared, said, "This is the day we have been struggling for for 27 years." Her father was apparently dumped in the Atlantic. Judge Guzmán's investigation has centered on the activities of a death squad known as the caravan of death, a helicopter-borne force that operated in the first weeks after the coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende Gossens, a Socialist.

The squad was led by Sergio Arellano Stark, an intelligence aide close to General Pinochet who is now a retired general. It picked up former members of Dr. Allende's government, labor leaders and other leftists being held in military compounds and reportedly executed them. Of the 75 prisoners taken by the death squad, none were seen alive again and 18 remain missing.

In his interrogation last week, General Pinochet said that he was innocent and that any executions committed by the death squad were the responsibility of local commanders.

"I am not responsible," General Pinochet said, according to a transcript that was leaked and published in newspapers. "I am not a criminal."

General Pinochet said General Arellano Stark, had been instructed to expedite justice, "sentence those that should be convicted and release those that were innocent."

Chilean news reports have suggested that General Pinochet went well beyond the advice of his lawyers that he say as little as possible to Judge Guzmán.

The publication of the statements created a stir in military circles, whose members viewed such a defense as a less-than-heroic transfer of criminal responsibility to others.

Joaquín Lagos, a retired general who was a local commander in northern Chile in 1973 who would surely be an important witness in any trial, appeared on state television on Thursday to rebut General Pinochet's reported testimony. He said that at the time General Arellano Stark, then a middle-rank officer, was taking prisoners under his command for execution, he showed a document "showing that Pinochet had appointed him as his personal delegate."

With that document in hand, General Lagos said, it was as if General Pinochet himself was giving the orders. General Lagos also said he had personally confronted General Pinochet about the executions, adding that he warned the dictator 28 years ago that "sooner or later, we will all be tried for this, especially you, as the commander of the army."

Since General Lagos made his statements last week, he has been put under police protection.

General Arellano Stark, who has been charged in the case and is under house arrest, has denied wrongdoing.

Another retired general, Luis Cortés Villa, director of the Pinochet Foundation, a group dedicated to promoting his legacy, called Judge Guzmán's action a political ruling. "This is a punishment waged against the entire military family," General Cortés Villa said.

His statement appeared to be an invitation to the armed forces to intervene in General Pinochet's behalf.

Top of page