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Chilean Court Strips Augusto Pinochet of Immunity

StoryJune 06, 2000
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An appellate court in Santiago, Chile yesterday stripped Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Chile’s former president, of his immunity from prosecution. Following the 13-9 vote, hundreds of people marched through the streets of Santiago. [includes rush transcript]

Pinochet’s lawyers plan to appeal the verdict at the Supreme Court level. This process is expected to take weeks.

According to an official report compiled by the civilian government that succeeded Pinochet, 3,191 people died or disappeared under his 1973-90 regime. Activists say the number is much higher. Pinochet faces 110 lawsuits stemming from that era.

The former dictator was reportedly awaiting the official ruling at one of his countryside residences near Santiago.

Guest:

  • Fabiola Letelier, sister of Orlando Letelier, former Defense Minister for Salvador Allende who was assassinated in 1976 in Washington, DC by a car bomb traced back to Pinochet’s secret police (the DINA). She is also a human rights attorney in Santiago, Chile.

TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

And now we are going to go down to Santiago, where an appellate court yesterday stripped General Augusto Pinochet of his immunity from prosecution. The court voted thirteen-to-nine for the action. Hundreds of people marched in celebration through the streets of Santiago following the decision. Pinochet’s lawyers say they’ll appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court.

According to an official report compiled by the civilian government that succeeded Pinochet, more than 3,000 people died or disappeared under his seventeen-year regime.

Pinochet is reportedly awaiting the official ruling at one of his countryside residences near Santiago.

We’re joined now by Fabiola Letelier, who is a sister of Orlando Letelier, the former Defense Minister for Salvador Allende who was assassinated — Orlando Letelier was — in 1976 in Washington, D.C. by a car bomb that was traced back to Pinochet’s secret police, the DINA.

Can you give us your response, Fabiola Letelier, who by the way is a human rights attorney in Santiago, to the court’s decision yesterday?

FABIOLA LETELIER:

Ah, you know, this official court verdict was expected by thousands of thousands of people, and of course it was a moment of real happiness and joy, because the people felt that this was a step to obtain the reparation of the thousand of thousand of Chilean people that were murdered, tortured and assassinated during the military dictatorship.

And, of course, the verdict of the court means that today in our country, every person, every citizen are in the same condition before the tribunals, so the equality of the law has been recognized by the court. That means that Pinochet has been taken out of immunity as a senator for life.

AMY GOODMAN:

And so, what happens next?

FABIOLA LETELIER:

Next, the lawyers of Pinochet have to appeal. They have told us that they are going to appeal of this verdict before the Supreme Court. They have five days terms to present this petition. And after that, the Supreme Court will take two or three weeks to analyze, to discuss, and then to make the final decision. But we really believe, the lawyers on human rights, that the — all the proof, all the elements, all the evidences that has been mentioned in this verdict of the court are so sufficient to obtain the ratification of the Supreme Court. We hope that.

AMY GOODMAN:

He was sent back to Chile. He was not extradited to Spain, because the Home Secretary in Britain, Jack Straw, said he was not mentally fit or physically fit to stand trial. What is his condition? What is your understanding of it?

FABIOLA LETELIER:

You know, the different journalists, different newspaper, different magazine of the press, the Chilean press, has mentioned that Pinochet, during the last week, has received the Commander-in-Chief of the Army to discuss the situation of Pinochet. And also he have received a visit of all the senators and representatives of the House of Representatives — of course, of the right — in our country. And also there are declaration of one of the sons, Pinochet’s sons, that has been — expressed that Pinochet is recovering. So we really believe that Pinochet is in good condition, in good mental condition to face a just trial in Chile.

AMY GOODMAN:

Do you think you’ll see him in trial?

FABIOLA LETELIER:

Excuse me?

AMY GOODMAN:

Do you think you’ll see him in trial?

FABIOLA LETELIER:

You know —

AMY GOODMAN:

On trial.

FABIOLA LETELIER:

—- of course, in my country, we have, you know, a system, a judicial system. During the military dictatorship, they don’t make -— they make a denigration of justice. But now the things are changed because, as you know, the Chilean government, the government of Frei, was the one that asked before the kingdom tribunals, and they said that Pinochet still was sick and all these humanitarian reason. So our country, the government, the civil government, in this moment, is involved —

AMY GOODMAN:

Is involved? Well, it looks like we just lost Fabiola Letelier, but we have come to the end of the show. Fabiola Letelier is the sister of Orlando Letelier, killed, it is believed, by Pinochet’s secret police in Washington, D.C. in 1976, blown up along with Ronni Moffitt by a car bomb. She is a human rights attorney in Santiago, Chile. Again, the latest news, the appellate court of Chile stripped General Augusto Pinochet of his immunity from prosecution, and we’ll continue to follow the case.

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