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Last Updated: Monday, 9 January 2006, 22:41 GMT
Chile judge grants Pinochet bail
Augusto Pinochet
Gen Pinochet will have to remain under house arrest
Chile's former ruler General Augusto Pinochet was granted bail on Monday after seven week's house arrest for charges relating to his years in power.

The motion by Judge Victor Montiglio, who suggested bail of $19,000 (10,760), must be ratified by the court of appeals.

It relates to the disappearance and presumed death of three leftists.

Gen Pinochet, 90, was Chilean leader from 1973-1990, when an estimated 3,000 people died in political violence.

Regime crackdown

A final ruling on bail for Gen Pinochet is expected later in the week.

Since 24 November, the general has been under guard at his mansion in the Chilean capital Santiago.

Last week, Chile's court of appeals ratified bail for the retired general in the cases of six other left-wing activists kidnapped and presumed killed as part of a Pinochet regime crackdown that became known as Operation Colombo.

It saw the disappearance of 119 members of an armed revolutionary group in the mid-1970. Gen Pinochet has been linked to only a small number of these.

Augusto Pinochet
General Pinochet is also facing tax charges

Gen Pinochet's regime has been accused of creating false news stories saying members of the Revolutionary Leftist Movement killed each other in an effort to cover up their involvement.

Some Chilean former military officers have been convicted of human rights abuses during the general's years in power, but Gen Pinochet himself has never gone on trial.

In other human rights cases, the Supreme Court accepted the defence argument that the former dictator is too ill to stand trial.

The general also faces tax evasion charges over secret overseas bank accounts, estimated by investigators to hold $28m (15.8m) million).

He is also under indictment for allegedly diverting $2m (1.13m) in public funds to his private accounts while in power.

Gen Pinochet's legal immunity as a former president has also been lifted in other human rights and corruption cases in which new indictments are expected to take place.

He has evaded trial before because he suffers from mild dementia, has had several strokes, has diabetes and arthritis and uses a pacemaker.

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