France still plans to bring Pinochet allies to trial

11th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 11, 2006 (AFP) - French judges still intend to bring 17 allies of Augusto Pinochet to trial over the disappearance of four French citizens in the 1970s despite the Chilean dictator's death, a legal official said Monday.

PARIS, Dec 11, 2006 (AFP) - French judges still intend to bring 17 allies of Augusto Pinochet to trial over the disappearance of four French citizens in the 1970s despite the Chilean dictator's death, a legal official said Monday.

Nineteen people, including Pinochet and senior retired Chilean military officers, were being investigated over the disappearance of four Frenchman in Chile between 1973 and 1975.

French judges issued international warrants for their arrest in 2001 and again in 2005, for illegal "arrests, abduction and detention accompanied by acts of torture" or complicity in those crimes.

Pinochet's death formally closes the chapter of the inquiry against him, while a second figure, former Chilean general Javier Palacios Ruhmann, died in June before he could be brought to trial.

But top figures including Manuel Contreras, founder of the secret police under Pinochet, and Paul Schaefer, who founded Colonia Dignidad, a sect and camp for political prisoners in the Andes mountains, still stand to face trial.

French judge Sophie Clement, who wrapped up her investigation on December 5, now has until March to refer the accused to be tried in absentia in a French criminal court. If she does so, the trial would start in 2008 at the earliest.

Foreign Minister Philippe-Douste Blazy on Monday voiced hope the accused would be made to stand trial, saying France "regrets" that Pinochet died before he could be brought to justice.

"Other judicial procedures, targeting officials from Chile's military dictatorship, remain ongoing," Douste-Blazy said in a statement. "France hopes that their conclusion will help us to allow us to bring the truth to light."

The four Frenchmen — a political adviser to ousted president Salvador Allende, a former priest and two members of a left-wing movement — are among the more than 3,000 people thought to have been killed under Pinochet's regime.

The victims' families insisted on Sunday that "the Chilean dictatorship will be put on trial in Paris" and that it would be "the only such trial in the world."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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