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Paper: US Revives Pinochet Probe

March 23, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Justice Department is reviving a long-dormant investigation aimed at indicting Gen. Augusto Pinochet for the 1976 car bombing that killed former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier, The Washington Post reported.

In a story posted Wednesday night on the newspaper’s Web site, the Post said that a team of American law enforcement officials arrived in Santiago, Chile, on Wednesday for court proceedings involving 42 potential witnesses subpoenaed by Chile’s Supreme Court on behalf of the U.S. government. All are to be interrogated using lists of questions provided by U.S. law enforcement officers, the newspaper said.

``The investigative steps we are currently taking in coordination with the FBI are a sign that we are serious about getting all of the facts,″ Justice Department spokesman Myron Marlin told The Associated Press on Wednesday night.

The Post said the chances that Pinochet would be extradited to the United States from Chile if indicted were remote, but that an indictment could increase the pressure on Chile to try Pinochet for human rights abuses during his 17 years as the country’s president.

Six people were sent to prison for the Letelier bombing, which took place on a busy street along Embassy Row in Washington, but the U.S. government had not targeted Pinochet for ordering the murder until the former dictator was arrested in Britain 16 months ago.

Pinochet, 84, returned to Chile earlier this month from London after successfully fighting extradition to Spain, where a judge wanted to try him for human rights abuses during his 1973-90 dictatorship.

Britain released Pinochet after an independent team of four doctors determined he was physically and mentally unfit to stand trial.

The newspaper quoted Letelier’s widow as saying she received assurances last week from a senior Justice Department official that the U.S. government is ``vigorously″ pursuing the case.

Attorney General Janet Reno said last year that the case ``was never closed″ in the United States and that the department was reviewing whether Pinochet could be tried in the United States for the Letelier killing.

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