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Charges Against Pinochet Dropped

December 11, 2000

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ An appeals court dropped homicide and kidnapping charges against Gen. Augusto Pinochet on Monday, setting up a Supreme Court showdown on the fate of the former dictator.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs against the 85-year-old former ruler said they will appeal the 3-0 vote, setting up a ruling by Chile’s Supreme Court. A final verdict by the Supreme Court is expected as early as Thursday.

``We won, we won,″ an exultant Pinochet lawyer, Sergio Castro, told reporters as he raised three fingers from his hand to indicate the 3-0 vote by the 5th Chamber in the Santiago Court of Appeals panel.

In the appeals court hearing, arguments centered on the defense’s claim that Judge Juan Guzman acted illegally by indicting Pinochet before questioning him.

Carmen Hertz, an-anti Pinochet lawyer and the widow of a dissident killed during the Pinochet regime, called the court’s decision ``a mere technicality.″

``The court has only ruled that the indictment of Pinochet was improper because he was not questioned by a judge before it was issued ,″ Hertz said. ``But the ruling does not involve the essence of the case against him.″

``We will now go to the Supreme Court,″ she said.

Pinochet faces 189 criminal complaints stemming from the human rights abuses during his 1973-90 dictatorship.

He was accused of having responsibility for the ``Caravan of Death,″ a military operation that executed political prisoners shortly after the Sept. 11, 1973 coup in which Pinochet ousted Marxist President Salvador Allende.

Pinochet was charged with homicide for 55 victims whose bodies were recovered and kidnapping for 18 who remain missing.

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