Fourteen former Chilean officials on trial in France


Fri, Dec 10, 2010 - Page 6

A French court put 14 former Chilean officials on trial in absentia on Wednesday over the disappearance of French citizens under the regime of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

The 14, mostly former high-ranking military officials, face charges including kidnapping and torture and are the subject of international arrest warrants. They face up to life in prison, if convicted.

While the defendants did not appear in court on Wednesday, families of the victims hope the trial offers some justice more than 30 years after the four Frenchmen disappeared — and four years after Pinochet himself died.

The 14 are being tried in connection with the disappearances of the four men between 1973 and 1975. Among the disappeared was Georges Klein, the doctor of Marxist Chilean president Salvador Allende, whom Pinochet toppled on Sept. 11, 1973, in a bloody coup.

The defendants, aged between 59 and 89, include former Chilean defense minister Herman Brady-Roche and Juan Manuel Contreras Sepulveda, Pinochet’s chief of secret police. Contreras is serving time in Chile for several rights violations cases.

All 14 defendants have refused to send lawyers to the trial.

Pinochet and four other former senior officials were also initially named as suspects in the case, but all five have died since the investigation began more than a decade ago.

The other Frenchmen who disappeared were Etienne Pesle, a former priest working on a land redistribution project, and Alphonse Chanfreau and Claudet, both members of the leftist MIR party, who were arrested in 1974 and 1975.