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Mass arrests in Pinochet-era probe

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Latest update : 2008-05-27

A Chilean judge ordered the detention of nearly 100 former soldiers and secret police under Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship in the biggest single mass arrest for abuses during the era.

 

Nearly 100 former Chilean soldiers and secret police from Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship were ordered detained on Monday in the biggest single mass arrest for abuses during the period, judicial sources said.

 

Investigating judge Victor Montiglio ordered the detentions in a probe into the kidnapping and killing of 42 people during "Operation Colombo" early in the 1973-1990 dictatorship, during which 119 Pinochet opponents, many of them leftists, died.

 

Some of those held worked for Pinochet's infamous DINA intelligence service, which ran torture centers where hundreds of people were either killed or kidnapped without a trace during one of the darkest periods of contemporary Latin American history.

 

"This is excellent news, because Operation Colombo was also a case in which General Pinochet's immunity from prosecution was stripped, and given the number of victims, is an emblematic case," Sergio Laurenti, executive director of Amnesty International in Chile, told Reuters.

 

"But it is important that the police now furnish the necessary information to enable the courts to proceed," he added. "There is a lack of cooperation from the armed forces and security forces."

 

Among those being probed is former DINA head Manuel Contreras, already jailed for other abuses. Many of the newly detained will be held in military compounds.

 

PURSUING 'THOSE RESPONSIBLE'

 

Pinochet's secret police collaborated with dictatorships in neighboring Argentina and in Brazil amid a wider crackdown called "Operation Condor," and at the time explained away the disappearances in Chile by saying that the victims had fled the country.

 

They later changed their story, and said the victims were killed due to internecine fighting.

 

"Minister Montiglio's investigations are meticulous. Logically they attribute a great deal of responsibility to the state apparatus, that it was involved in these horrendous crimes, and for that reason we will pursue those responsible to the very last," said Boris Paredes, a lawyer for the Interior Ministry.

 

 Pinochet died in December 2006 without ever facing trial for crimes during his rule, during which 3,000 people died or disappeared

 

Date created : 2008-05-27

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