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Monday, 12 February, 2001, 19:11 GMT
Chilean general denies torture
The bombing of the presidential palace, 1973
The 1973 military coup still divides Chileans
The Chilean Air Force's second in command, General Hernan Gabrielli, has rejected accusations that he tortured a political prisoner who was later executed by a military squad known as the Caravan of Death.

Two former prisoners said they had seen General Gabrielli beating Eugenio Ruiz Tagle while he was detained at an air base in the north of the country.

The general cut short his holidays to face the allegations and hold talks with government officials.

Pinochet, seen here in December
General Pinochet's lawyers say he is too ill to stand trial
The alleged torture and death of Mr Ruiz Tagle has been at the centre of renewed allegations against the former military ruler, general Augusto Pinochet, currently indicted in connection with the Caravan.

The Chilean authorities are investigating the authenticity of documents leaked last week, which suggest that General Pinochet instructed prosecutors to conclude that Mr Ruiz Tagle was not tortured.

'Not there'

The note, apparently signed by the former ruler, adds that the left-wing activist was executed because of the "serious charges against him".

But after the documents came to light, two men told different Chilean newspapers they had seen Mr Ruiz Tagle being beaten and kicked by several officers led by the then Lieutenant Gabrielli.

On Monday General Gabrielli read a statement saying it was hard to reconstruct events which occurred 27 years ago, but that he remembered not being at the base at the time the alleged torture took place.

He told the press, he had arrived at Cerro Moreno base a day later to train pilots. He added he was not involved in security matters.

Pinochet appeal

The Chilean Government has reacted cautiously to the controversy surrounding General Gabrielli, preferring not to comment on the issue.

A lawsuit against the general could be presented in the courts later this week.

General Pinochet's lawyer are due to go before the appeals court in Santiago on Tuesday, to argue that the former ruler is too ill to stand trial.

The general is currently under house arrest after a judge indicted him in connection with more than 70 deaths and disappearances which occurred soon after the 1973 military coup which took the general to power.

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See also:

08 Feb 01 | Americas
Document 'destroys' Pinochet defence
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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