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Pinochet Said Set on Court Defense

August 3, 2000

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s son says his father will fight charges he committed human rights violations during his dictatorship and would never submit to medical tests to avoid trial in Chile.

The Supreme Court this week reportedly stripped Pinochet of his congressional immunity. The high court has said it would release its ruling next week, but legal sources, media reports and even Pinochet’s family have said the vote went against the former dictator.

``What my father will do now is to defend himself in court,″ Marco Antonio Pinochet told the Megavision television network on Wednesday.

Pinochet’s legal team had anticipated the 84-year-old retired general would not submit to medical tests, especially mental health tests. Under Chilean law, defendants can be exempted from trial only for reasons of madness or dementia.

Lawyer Pablo Rodriguez explained that while Pinochet has ``serious organic health problems,″ he is not crazy or demented and being exempted from trial for medical reasons ``would tarnish his image before history.″

Marco Antonio Pinochet said that ending his father’s legal troubles on medical grounds ``would mean that he would be considered guilty and, in addition, crazy.″

Because Pinochet is older than 70, the judge handling the case is mandated by law to have Pinochet examined by doctors.

Pinochet suffers from diabetes, has a pacemaker and suffered three mild strokes during his 16-month house arrest in London. He was allowed to return to Chile in March after Britain determined he was physically and mentally unfit for trial.

Pinochet faces 154 criminal complaints stemming from human rights abuses during his 1973-90 dictatorship, and the lifting of congressional legal immunity would remove the last hurdle for him to be tried.

The Chilean trial judge, Juan Guzman, is seeking Pinochet’s trial in one of the most notorious cases of abuses _ the so-called ``caravan of death,″ a military squad that summarily executed 72 political prisoners in several cities shortly after Pinochet’s bloody 1973 coup.

According to an official report, 3,197 people were killed during Pinochet’s regime, and more than 1,000 remain missing after being arrested during those years.

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