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Appeals court allows Pinochet to be released on bail

pinochet

SANTIAGO, Chile (CNN) -- The Chilean Appeals Court approved a judge's recommendation Wednesday that former military ruler Augusto Pinochet be freed on bail.

Judge Juan Guzman said Monday Pinochet's house arrest had been lifted and he should be freed on bail of 2 million pesos, or about $3,450.

The court approved the recommendation 2-1 Wednesday. Pinochet's attorneys were expected to post his bond later in the day.

The Court of Appeals last week ordered homicide and kidnapping charges against the 85-year-old Pinochet dropped, but it ruled he can be tried on charges he tried to cover up the killings and kidnappings.

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"(Pinochet) was granted eligibility for release pending payment of two million pesos (about $3,400)," a court source, who requested anonymity, told Reuters.

Despite the bail ruling, Pinochet has not been held in prison but in a summer house in Los Boldos, 80 miles southwest of Santiago.

Pinochet's defense lawyers hailed Guzman's ruling.

"It's a very good signal as to the road ahead after the previous ruling, in which they looked at the defense's arguments and decided, finally, to reduce the charges," Guillermo Garin, the head of Pinochet's defense team, told Reuters. "This resolution gives us hope that this judicial process will soon conclude."

The prosecution was dismayed by the decision.

"The provisional release is inopportune, since a series of important steps still remain," said prosecuting lawyer Hugo Gutierrez.

About 3,000 people were killed or disappeared at the hands of the state during Pinochet's 1973-1990 rule.

A separate plea by defense lawyers arguing that Pinochet, saddled with numerous medical difficulties, is too ill to defend himself must also be considered by the same appeals court. But Chilean law only allows people to avoid trial if they are declared insane.

Pinochet was detained in Britain in October 1998 at the request of a Spanish judge who wanted to try him on torture charges in Spain. Pinochet spent 503 days under house arrest but returned home to Chile after Britain ruled that he was too ill to be prosecuted.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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RELATED SITES:
FindLaw Legal Commentary
  • Crimes Against Humanity and the Passage of Time
  • Due process for Pinochet?
Amnesty International: Pinochet
Pinochet Foundation (in Spanish)
Chile President (in Spanish)
Human Rights Watch: The Pinochet Prosecution
UK Home Office
Pinochet Victim's Page
Chile: Trial Against Pinochet in Spain

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