Wed, Nov 29, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Pinochet indicted for 1973 execution of two bodyguards


Former dictator General Augusto Pinochet has been indicted and ordered to remain under house arrest for the killing of two bodyguards of Salvador Allende, the freely elected Marxist president he toppled in a 1973 coup.

Monday's indictment follows Pinochet's 91st birthday on Saturday, which he marked by issuing a statement for the first time taking full political responsibility for his regime's actions.

The Supreme Court press office said the indictment -- the fifth time Pinochet has been put under house arrest on charges stemming from human rights abuses during his 1973-90 dictatorship -- was issued by Judge Victor Montiglio.

Pinochet was stripped of his immunity from prosecution in the case last July.

The indictment involves kidnapping and homicide charges in the deaths of the two Allende bodyguards -- Wagner Salinas and Francisco Lara -- who were arrested the day of the coup, Sept. 11, 1973.

Both were executed by firing squad four weeks later, the military regime announced at the time. Salinas was a former South American heavyweight boxing champion.

More than 15 bodyguards and aides to Allende were plucked from the government palace during the coup and remain unaccounted for. Allende committed suicide during the military bombardment of the palace.

There was no immediate reaction from Pinochet's lawyers, but they were expected to appeal before the Supreme Court as they have done in each of the half-dozen prior times the ailing former dictator has been indicted on rights charges.

Two previous cases were closed when the courts ruled Pinochet's health prevented him from standing trial.

In addition to Monday's indictment, three others are pending, two in human rights cases and one for tax evasion.

Pinochet has been diagnosed with mild dementia caused by several strokes, suffers from diabetes and arthritis and needs a pacemaker.

On Saturday, Pinochet issued a statement taking political -- though not explicitly legal -- responsibility for the actions of his regime.

"Today, near the end of my days, I want to say that I harbor no rancor against anybody, that I love my fatherland above all and that I take political responsibility for everything that was done which had no other goal than making Chile greater and avoiding its disintegration," he said.

Scores of other legal actions have been filed against Pinochet by the relatives of victims of his regime.

During Pinochet's rule, 3,197 people were killed for political reasons, according to an independent commission report. Thousands more were illegally imprisoned, tortured and forced into exile.

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