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Decades after coup, 24 sentenced for rights violations in Chile

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  • 24 sentenced for human rights violations after 1973 coup of Chile's president
  • Ex-officers sentenced for their roles in a national wave of torture and murder
  • The case involved the most defendants sentenced at one time
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(CNN) -- A court in Chile has sentenced 24 former police officers in cases of kidnapping, torture and murder that happened just after a U.S.-backed coup toppled the country's democratically elected president in 1973, the country's Judicial Authority said Wednesday.

The former officers were sentenced for their roles in a national wave of kidnapping, torture and murder that killed thousands of Chileans after a coup overthrew President Salvador Allende, a Socialist, on Sept. 11, 1973.

The case involved the most defendants sentenced at one time on charges related to widespread repression committed during the military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who took power after the coup, according to a report in The Nation, a Chilean newspaper.

Pinochet was widely blamed for encouraging subordinates to kidnap, torture and kill people with suspected leftist ties, such as journalists and union members. Years after he left power in 1990, courts indicted him in two human rights cases, but judges threw out the charges on the grounds that Pinochet was too ill to stand trial.

He died in 2006.

The former police officers whose sentences were announced Wednesday were implicated in abuses that occurred between the day of the coup -- Sept. 11, 1973 -- and April 1974, according to a statement from Chile's Judicial Authority.

The abuses occurred in and around the city of Osorno, a city of about 132,000 in southern Chile.

The most severe punishment went to Adrian Jose Fernandez Hernandez, who was sentenced to life in prison for 15 kidnappings, 10 cases of torture and six murders, the statement said.

A judge sentenced five people to 15 years in prison -- three for committing 13 kidnappings and four murders and two for six kidnappings and one murder.

The judge sentenced one person to 5 years in prison while 13 others received four-year sentences. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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