Families of victims welcome trial of Pinochet associates

22nd February 2007, Comments 0 comments

SANTIAGO, Feb 21, 2007 (AFP) - Relatives of people kidnapped or abducted and presumed killed during Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship welcomed Wednesday France's landmark plan to try in absentia 17 Pinochet associates.

SANTIAGO, Feb 21, 2007 (AFP) - Relatives of people kidnapped or abducted and presumed killed during Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship welcomed Wednesday France's landmark plan to try in absentia 17 Pinochet associates.

"I enormously appreciate what is being done; it is so important," said Viviana Diaz, vice president of the families group.

"I am very happy to see this progress on trying so many people who have answers about what happened," she added.

In Paris a judicial source said 17 associates of the late Chilean dictator would face the trial in absentia before a French court for the disappearance of four French nationals in the 1970s.

The trial, set to start possibly as early as next year, would mark the first time that members of the Pinochet regime, which is blamed for some 3,000 deaths and disappearances, face justice.

Among the 17 defendants cited in an indictment released Wednesday are Manuel Contreras, founder of the secret police, and Paul Schaefer, who founded Colonia Dignidad, a camp for political prisoners in the Andes mountains.

Pinochet, who ruled Chile between 1973 to 1990, died in December at a military hospital in Santiago, at the age of 91, after evading repeated attempts to bring him to trial.

Judge Sophie Clement of the Paris criminal court on Wednesday signed the 191-page indictment, setting the wheels in motion for the trial of the 17 men who are believed to be living in Chile and Argentina.

They will face charges of arrest, abduction and detention accompanied by acts of torture in connection with the disappearance of the four French citizens. If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison.

The French investigation into the fate of the four Frenchmen was launched in 1998 and also targeted Pinochet and a senior retired military officer, both of whom died before they could be brought to trial.

While the accused have refused to cooperate with French justice authorities, a case against them has been built with testimony from former political prisoners and turn-coat military officials.

The 17 men will stand trial for the disappearance of Georges Klein, a 29-year-old French national and adviser to ousted president Salvador Allende who was at his side during the September 1973 coup.

Former priest Etienne Pesle, who worked on a land reform project, and two left-wing revolutionaries Alphonse Chanfreau, 23, and Jean-Yves Claudet, 35 disappeared following their arrests in 1973 and 1974.

Under French law, foreign nationals can be placed on trial in French courts for crimes committed outside its territory if the victim is a French national.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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