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Chile's Pinochet Put Under House Arrest on Charges of Tax Evasion

November 24, 2005|From Associated Press

SANTIAGO, Chile — Gen. Augusto Pinochet was placed under house arrest Wednesday at his Santiago mansion on charges of tax evasion -- not the thousands of deaths and disappearances for which opponents have long tried to have him imprisoned.

Lawyers pursuing the former dictator, who turns 90 on Friday, said the indictment related to his multimillion-dollar overseas accounts was nevertheless a major victory. Several relatives of victims cheered and embraced at the courthouse.

Pinochet's attorneys immediately appealed the ruling on grounds of poor health, the same factor that 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 did not pose a danger and could be freed on a $22,000 bond, which 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 dictatorship.

Pinochet led a 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.

Pinochet has been indicted twice on human rights charges, but courts blocked the trials on health grounds. Two other prosecution attempts were stopped for the same reason at earlier stages. Pinochet has suffered several minor strokes since 1998. He also has mild dementia, diabetes and arthritis and has a pacemaker.

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