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Pinochet Questioned in Killing of General

December 6, 2005

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ Former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet was questioned Tuesday by a federal judge investigating the killing of an army colonel linked to an illegal arms sale.

Judge Claudio Pavez said he met with Pinochet at the mansion where he is under house arrest for separate human rights charges, but provided no details.

Pinochet’s spokesman, retired Gen. Guillermo Garin, said he didn’t know why Pinochet was questioned. ``This doesn’t make sense, asking these questions to a person whose health is so bad, who can’t even remember things,″ Garin said.

Pinochet, 90, was indicted and placed under house arrest Nov. 24 in the Operation Colombo case, which involves the slayings of 119 dissidents whose bodies were found in neighboring Argentina in 1975. At the time the bodies were discovered, Pinochet’s regime said they had died in clashes among rival armed opposition groups.

The former dictator also faces charges of tax evasion and corruption stemming from secret multimillion-dollar overseas bank accounts.

Pavez is investigating the death of Col. Gerardo Hube, who was involved in a 1992 arms sale to Croatia, according to the official investigation.

Hube, who worked for the army’s arms factory, disappeared in early 1992; his body was found in a river near Santiago a month later. Pavez determined that he was killed, and has questioned many army officers in the case. Nobody has been charged.

As Pavez left Pinochet’s residence, one of the former ruler’s granddaughters told reporters that Pinochet’s legal problems are affecting his health. ``I think anybody at age 90 would be harmed with these situations,″ Veronica Pinochet said.

``Grandpa doesn’t remember these things,″ she said. ``He gets confused with the judges questioning him. He thinks they are just people coming to visit him.″

Pinochet’s ailing health caused the courts to block four attempts to try him for human rights abuses during his 1973-90 dictatorship. He suffers from mild dementia, diabetes, arthritis and has a pacemaker.

According to an official report, 3,190 people were killed for political reasons during Pinochet’s rule.

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