Pinochet bailed over coup priest "disappearance"

Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has been bailed by an appeals court on charges of torture and murder of a Spanish Catholic priest who disappeared in the early months of Pinochet's rule.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Santiago Court of Appeals had stripped Pinochet of immunity he enjoys as former president in relation to the kidnapping and disappearance in September 1974 of Fr Antonio Llido, the International Herald Tribune reports.

Pinochet's chief lawyer, Pablo Rodriguez, said he will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. If the ruling is upheld, Judge Jorge Zepeda, who is pursuing the case, could indict Pinochet in the case.

Zepeda was assigned to the case after the priest's sister, Eva Llido, filed a criminal suit against Pinochet, one of the scores of cases stemming from human rights abuses during his long reign.

Pinochet, 90, is currently under indictment and on house arrest on torture charges linked to a secret detention centre where President Michelle Bachelet and her mother were once held.

The former dictator has been arrested five times on rights abuses since 1998, and has also faced tax fraud charges.

In each case, he was released on grounds of poor health, or because bail was granted.

The arrest last month, which also included charges of kidnapping, was the first where he was charged with torture and came after an investigation of rights abuses at Villa Grimaldi, an infamous detention centre run by the regime's secret police.

Thousands were tortured at Villa Grimaldi between 1974 and 1977, including Michelle Bachelet, Chile's current president.

Pinochet turns 91 on 25 November.

Bail was later set by the court at 500,000 pesos, or just under $A1,234, the West Australian adds.

Pinochet gets bail in Chile torture case (West Australian, 10/11/06)
Court strips former dictator Pinochet of immunity for disappearance of Spanish priest (International Herald Tribune, 9/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Augusto Pinochet (Wikipedia)
Chile military coup 1973 (Wikipedia)

Pinochet asks for forgiveness, wife says after anniversary Mass (CathNews, 11/9/06)
Chilean Bishops ask Pinochet cooperation in human rights lawsuits (CathNews, 12/3/00)
Pope's support for court being undermined says former Australian minister (19/4/99)

10 Nov 2006