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Pinochet Goes To Highest Court

June 9, 2000

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ Defense lawyers for Gen. Augusto Pinochet on Friday appealed a court ruling that stripped the former dictator of immunity from prosecution.

The appeal to the Supreme Court was aimed at reversing last month’s decision by a lower court allowing Pinochet to stand trial on human rights charges.

Defense team lawyer Gustavo Collao said the decision by the Santiago Court of Appeals was ``a judicial offense″ to the 84-year-old Pinochet, who as a senator for life previously enjoyed immunity from prosecution. The appeal stressed Pinochet’s innocence, Collao said.

``There is no information whatsoever, no indications or suspicions, that Sen. Pinochet has participated in the acts of which he is accused,″ said Collao, a retired army colonel.

Pinochet faces 110 criminal complaints stemming from abuses during his 1973-90 regime.

The bulk of the complaints stem from the so-called ``Caravan of Death,″ in which military officers toured several cities shortly after Pinochet’s coup, dragging political prisoners from jail and executing them. An official report says 75 people were killed.

The Santiago appeals court voted to remove Pinochet’s immunity, stating that ``there are clear suspicions″ of his responsibility for the caravan.

But Collao said Pinochet’s defense team had asked the Supreme Court to decree the lower court hearing unfair, because the ex-dictator was too sick to issue instructions to his lawyers.

He said the appeal included a request for new medical tests to determine whether Pinochet could even stand trial _ a request rejected by the lower court.

Pinochet was detained in London on a Spanish warrant for 16 months, much of it under house arrest. He was released after doctors determined he was physically and mentally unfit for trial.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Hernan Alvarez said a decision on the appeal was likely later this month.

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