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Judicial miracle prevents Pinochet from appearing before court

A last minute rule from the Chilean Court of Appeals agreed to consider the removal of the judge that requested former dictator Augusto Pinochet to be questioned on crimes against humanity.
“It’s a judicial miracle”, angrily told the press, Hugo Gutierrez, one of Augusto Pinochet’s prosecutors. The reason, a last minute rule from the Chilean Court of Appeals prevented the 88 year old bloody dictator from appearing before courts on Thursday, as ordered by Judge Juan Guzman. Pinochet had been requested to comment on crimes against humanity shortly after the Supreme Court of Justice stripped him of the immunity he enjoyed as former president.

When everything was ready to see Pinochet before the tribunal, the Santiago Court of Appeals surprisingly agreed to consider a request filed by Pinochet's lawyers for the removal of Guzman from the case for allegedly showing "animosity" toward the dictator.

While the court considers the request, the case will be taken away from Guzman, effectively preventing him from questioning Pinochet, and transferred to another judge. The court has no deadline for a ruling. The other judge, Gabriela Perez, could question Pinochet at any time. But she would need days to study hundreds of pages accumulated in the legal process.

Usually Latin American courts are very slow to consider rules. Easy trials may take five years to get a resolution, as files enter into the overwhelming web of bureaucracy. However, Chilean courts proved to be extraordinarily efficient this time as moved unusually fast to avoid Pinochet’s questioning. "It's hard to believe how fast the court moved to decide," prosecutor Gutierrez commented.

Guzman is investigating the notorious Operation Condor - a plan by South American military dictatorships in the 1970s for joint action to eliminate leftists coordinated by the then US State Secretary, Henry Kissinger. Pinochet ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990 after seizing power in a bloody coup backed by the United States that ousted the constitutional president Salvador Allende.

According to Human Right groups, upon gaining power, General Augusto Pinochet initiated a program of repression. This program included political persecution; mass arrests; summary trials; systematic torture and "disappearances"; secret executions and detention -- all in locations such as the naval training ship, The Esmeralda.

Court papers read that 20 Chileans were made to disappear by Operation Condor, which involved the secret services of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Hernan Etchaleco

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