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Official Pinochet Probe Lawyer Dead

April 30, 2000

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ Raul Rettig, the lawyer who led an official investigation into atrocities committed during Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-90 dictatorship, died Sunday of a heart attack. He was 91.

Rettig died at his Santiago residence, said Anselmo Sule, president of Rettig’s social democratic Radical Party.

Calling Rettig ``a fundamental man for the restoration of democracy in Chile,″ President Ricardo Lagos decreed three days of national mourning, and for Chile’s flag to fly at half-staff at all public buildings.

Rettig’s family said the funeral will take place Tuesday and the coffin will be covered with the blue flag of Universidad de Chile, his favorite soccer team. Rettig was an avid soccer fan.

During a political career than spanned seven decades, Rettig was a Cabinet member, ambassador, congressman and senator, but he is best remembered for heading up the commission that produced the official report on human rights abuses by the Pinochet regime.

A fiery public speaker and a respected attorney, Rettig was credited across the political spectrum as having done a balanced job in the investigation.

Thousands of people were interviewed, including military men and former security agents who agreed to talk privately. Hundreds of cases were examined.

Rettig made a point in having representatives from all political sectors in the commission, and dismissed critics who said his work would be politically biased.

``Human rights and truth have no political colors,″ he said at the time in an interview with The Associated Press.

The commission’s final report established that at least 3,197 people were killed for political reasons or disappeared during the Pinochet regime.

Among the many anecdotes in Rettig’s long career is a pistol duel in the 1950s with a young Marxist congressman, Salvador Allende, who later became the president toppled by Pinochet in his bloody 1973 coup.

The reasons for the duel _ in which both men actually shot their pistols without hitting each other _ were never known. After the duel, however, they developed a close friendship and as president, Allende named Rettig ambassador to Brazil.

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