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Chile Court Ends Pinochet Immunity

August 8, 2000

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ Chile’s Supreme Court stripped Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s immunity, clearing the way for the former dictator to be tried on human rights charges, the court said Tuesday.

The court voted 14-6 to allow the 84-year-old Pinochet to be prosecuted on charges stemming from his 1973-1990 rule, Justice Jose Benquis announced.

The actual vote was last week, but the decision was not announced until the legal ruling was written and signed by all the justices.

The court turned down Pinochet’s appeal of a lower court decision in June stripping him of the immunity he had as a senator-for-life, a post he created for himself in the constitution written under his regime.

``This is not a defeat. Our next step, if a trial actually takes place, is to prove the complete innocence of Gen. Pinochet,″ said lawyer Gustavo Collao, a member of Pinochet’s legal team.

Eduardo Contreras, a communist anti-Pinochet lawyer, said ``this is a very emotional moment. We dedicate it to the many victims of repression under Pinochet.″

Despite the high court’s decision, the former dictator’s foes acknowledge that a quick trial is unlikely.

The former dictator’s age, his medical problems and his other legal privileges could drag out attempts to try him.

``I do not see Pinochet going to jail,″ Hugo Gutierrez, attorney for several plaintiffs in the case, said Monday.

Putting Pinochet on trial ``could take up to eight years,″ Contreras said over the weekend.

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