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Last Updated: Monday, 26 December 2005, 17:26 GMT
Pinochet ruled fit to stand trial
Augusto Pinochet
Gen Pinochet will have to remain under house arrest
Chile's top court has ruled that former military ruler Gen Augusto Pinochet is fit to stand trial over the 1975 disappearance of political opponents.

The supreme court rejected an appeal that the 90-year-old should not be sent for trial because of poor health.

Correspondents say this latest ruling is a significant victory for the families of the disappeared.

The decision comes weeks after a judge ruled that there was enough evidence for the general to face trial.

In the case that became known as Operation Colombo, at least 119 people were believed to have been abducted and later murdered.

The former regime said all had died in clashes between rival opposition groups.

New tests

Gen Pinochet had his legal immunity stripped in the Operation Colombo case after being found fit to stand trial in September.

The supreme court upheld the decision on Monday by three votes to two.

It is still considering a defence appeal over three more cases relating to the disappearances. A decision on them is expected on Tuesday.

In the past, courts had on several occasions dismissed cases against Gen Pinochet on medical grounds.

However, a round of new court-ordered medical tests found that the general was in good enough health to face criminal charges.

The supreme court ordered that he should remain under house arrest in relation to the charges.

The general is also facing tax evasion charges in connection to his foreign bank accounts.

More than 3,000 people were killed when Gen Pinochet was in power from 1973 to 1990.

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