News24

French trial of Pinochet officials opens

2010-12-08 13:04

Paris - Fourteen officials from the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet's junta went on trial in absentia in Paris on Wednesday over the disappearance of four French citizens.

Families of the disappeared listened as the judge read out the names of the 13 Chileans and one Argentinian accused of kidnapping, arbitrary detention, torture and barbarous acts.

The 14 accused, most of whom were military officers during the Pinochet regime that lasted from 1973 to 1990, include Manuel Contreras, the former head of the Dina secret police.

The four French citizens who disappeared are George Klein, a former counsellor to leftwing president Salvador Allende who was ousted by Pinochet in a 1973 coup, a priest and two members of the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR).

Pinochet was himself implicated in the disappearance of the four French citizens who vanished shortly after he came to power, but he died in 2006 without ever facing trial.

A verdict is expected on December 17.

Pinochet's military regime has been blamed for 3 000 dead or missing people during its 17-year rule. More than 500 military personnel from that time are being prosecuted for those crimes.