October 27, 2006
Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet was charged with the torture and disappearances of people in state custody who opposed his 1973-1990 rule, Judge Alejandro Solis announced. Meanwhile, another Chilean judge vowed Friday to investigate the authenticity of documents showing Pinochet allegedly had gold stashed at HSBC bank in Hong Kong. The bank maintains the documents are false.
The human rights case involves tortures allegedly committed at Villa Grimaldi, a secret detention center where Michelle Bachelet, now president of Chile, once was tortured, along with others. Solis charged that Pinochet was responsible in 36 cases of "forced disappearances," a murder and 23 cases of torture committed in the jail.
"I will give no further details until Monday, when (Pinochet) will be officially notified," Solis told reporters, without saying whether Pinochet would be arrested. Pinochet, 90, has lost the immunity he enjoys as a former de facto ruler of Chile on several occasions, but has never stood trial for any of the 3,000 cases of deaths and torture committed, according to an official count.
Pinochet, who ruled with an iron fist between 1973 and 1990, is also under investigation for alleged tax evasion and fraud following the discovery of previously undeclared bank accounts in the United States. He is under house arrest.
Villa Grimaldi, the name given a former mansion in Santiago was a torture center from 1973 until 1978 run by Pinochet's feared secret police, DINA. Bachelet and her mother, Angela Jeria, were imprisoned there and tortured for a month in 1975 after the arrest of Bachelet's father, air force general Alberto Bachelet. Chile's military toppled elected Socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973.
Bachelet, who was a medical student at the time, and her mother were blindfolded, subjected to tough interrogation and torture, according to some testimony that Bachelet has never denied. They were released after three weeks and left the country to live in exile. The first woman president of Chile has been in power for seven months. Her mother accompanied her during a recent visit to the site, now a park.
British banking giant HSBC said Thursday that documents published in Chile allegedly showing Pinochet had a huge gold deposit in its Hong Kong bank were false. But judge Judge Juan Gonzalez said Friday the probe would continue despite HSBC's denial. "We are going to press on with the information gathering despite what the bank's representative has said," Gonzalez said, adding "determining how all of this came about, also would be one of the investigation's goals, finding out who is behind this supposed falsification."
HSBC of Hong Kong said documents that purportedly show the former Chilean dictator stashed gold in Hong Kong are false. According to the reported documentation, Pinochet's deposit was worth about 160 million dollars. Other sources said the deposit was worth 190 million dollars in today's market.
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