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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 October, 2004, 08:37 GMT 09:37 UK
France considers Pinochet trial
Gen Pinochet in a file photo from 1975
Gen Pinochet has said he had no knowledge of the killings
French prosecutors have called for former Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet to be tried over the disappearance of four French citizens in the 1970s.

Along with 20 other former military officers, he is suspected of having ordered their arrest and detention.

General Pinochet, 88, is currently under house arrest in Chile.

French investigating magistrate Sophie Clement is expected to decide within six weeks whether he and the others should be tried in absentia.

Preliminary charges against Mr Pinochet hold him responsible of "illegal confinement accompanied or followed by acts of torture" of the French men.

The disappeared include Georges Klein, the doctor of President Salvador Allende, who died in a military coup led by Gen Pinochet in September 1973.

1973: Leads coup against left-wing President Salvador Allende
1988: Loses plebiscite on rule
1990: Steps down as president
1998: Retires as army commander-in-chief. Arrested in UK at Spain's request
2000: Allowed to return to Chile
2004: Supreme Court strips his legal immunity

Gen Pinochet is also to be questioned over the disappearance of a priest, Etienne Pesle, in 1974 and of leftists Alphonse Chanfreau and Lean-Yves Claudet-Fernandez in 1975.

At least 3,000 people were killed during his years in power, but the former military ruler denies any role in Operation Condor, a scheme in which South American dictatorships eliminated their left-wing critics.

In September, the Chilean authorities stripped Mr Pinochet of his immunity from prosecution over Operation Condor.

Doctors who examined him to decide whether he was fit to stand trial came to different conclusions, with one diagnosing mild dementia.

Chilean judge Juan Guzman will now decide whether Mr Pinochet can face charges of kidnapping and killing his opponents.

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