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Thursday, 8 February, 2001, 04:17 GMT
Document 'destroys' Pinochet defence
General Pinochet
Pinochet is appealing against the house arrest order
The Chilean authorities are investigating the authenticity of leaked government documents which suggest that former military ruler General Augusto Pinochet was aware of human rights abuses being committed against political opponents.

Suggested reply - Eugenio Ruiz Tagle was executed because of the gravity of the charges against him. Torture was not used, according to available information

Text of note allegedly written by Pinochet
The documents were published on the internet by a Chilean newspaper, El Mostrador, as Santiago's Court of Appeals considered General Pinochet's appeal against a house arrest order and indictments for murder and kidnapping.

In one of the documents, the army prosecutor asks General Pinochet to investigate the death of left-wing activist Eugenio Ruiz Tagle, who was allegedly tortured by a military squad known as the Caravan of Death.

A handwritten reply at the bottom, bearing what appears to be General Pinochet's signature, instructs the prosecutor to conclude that no torture took place and that the activist was executed because of the serious charges against him.

Human rights lawyers say that if the documents are genuine, they should be included in efforts to bring General Pinochet to trial.

'No responsibility'

"This significantly helps to show that Pinochet not only knew of the crimes but that he directly participated in carrying them out as a mastermind, accomplice and concealer," lawyer Eduardo Contreras told Reuters news agency.

Judge Juan Guzman
Judge Guzman: Briefly interrogated Pinochet
"I believe this destroys Pinochet's defence," he added.

But lawyers for General Pinochet maintained that he bore no responsibility for the acts.

A week ago they filed an appeal for charges against the general to be dropped.

Investigating Judge Juan Guzman has indicted General Pinochet in connection with the deaths and disappearances of more than 70 political prisoners shortly after the 1973 military coup that brought him to power.

The defence team argues that the 85-year-old general is not guilty and that he is too ill to stand trial.

Charges reinstated

Any decision by the court could be challenged all the way to the Chilean Supreme Court.

General Pinochet maintains he is innocent of the charges, which accuse him of masterminding the Caravan of Death.

Judge Guzman's arrest order reinstated charges filed against General Pinochet on 1 December but struck down later that month by Chile's Supreme Court, which ruled that the judge had failed to interrogate the accused or have him submit to medical tests.

Medical tests and a brief interrogation were conducted earlier this month.

The former military ruler faces a total of 223 lawsuits alleging human rights abuses during his rule.

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See also:

01 Feb 01 | Americas
Pinochet's lawyers appeal
01 Feb 01 | Americas
Pinochet under house arrest
30 Jan 01 | Americas
Pinochet to fight arrest order
23 Jan 01 | Americas
Judge questions Pinochet
13 Jan 01 | Americas
Doctors conclude Pinochet medical
10 Jan 01 | Americas
Finding Chile's disappeared
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