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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 August, 2004, 00:25 GMT 01:25 UK
Pinochet quizzed on bank accounts
General Pinochet in 2000
Pinochet's legal team say all his funds are legitimate
A Chilean judge has questioned former dictator Augusto Pinochet about secret bank accounts which came to light this summer in a US Senate report.

Gen Pinochet, 88, was questioned at his home about 10 days ago after agreeing to testify, a member of his legal team told reporters.

Gen Pinochet and his family deny theft of public funds while in office.

It was his first interview with a judge since being ruled unfit to stand trial over human rights violations in 2001.

Human rights lawyers said the questioning this month showed the ex-leader was healthy enough to stand trial.

"Nobody can argue anymore he is crazy or demented... It's been proven he is legally competent to face a trial," said one, Eduardo Contreras.

Court-ordered medical exams earlier found he suffered from a mild form of dementia caused by minor strokes.

The country's Court of Appeals recently stripped Gen Pinochet of immunity from prosecution, a move which could pave the way for a trial on charges of human rights abuses during his 1973-1990 rule.

'Perfectly legal'

A US Senate investigation into the Washington DC-based Riggs Bank reported in July that Gen Pinochet and his wife had held up to $8m in the bank between 1994 and 2002, cashing in several cheques in Chile drawn on the accounts.

The Chilean courts assigned a special judge, Sergio Munoz, to investigate possible financial crimes.

Judge Munoz has already questioned Gen Pinochet's wife and five children and has obtained records from Chile's tax service, stock brokerages, Congress and the military.

It was not immediately clear on Friday if the judge had conducted the questioning of the general himself.

Pablo Rodriguez, who heads Gen Pinochet's legal team, said on Friday that all of the ex-leader's funds had been "acquired in a perfectly legal manner, without any type of fraud or corruption".

The BBC's Mathew Charles
"Lawyers for the General say he has nothing to hide"

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Timeline: Chile
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