November 16, 2005
Santiago, Chile: Chilean former dictator Augusto Pinochet told a judge he doesn’t believe there were excesses during his 17-year rule, and if there were, God would pardon him, a human rights lawyer said on Wednesday.
“Everything I did, all my actions, all of the problems I had I dedicate to God and to Chile, because I kept Chile from becoming Communist,” Pinochet told a judge regarding the 1973 military coup that launched him to power, according to Hernan Quezada.
Quezada, a lawyer who represents families of human rights victims, said he viewed transcripts of Judge Victor Montiglio’s recent interrogations of Pinochet.
“I regret and suffer those losses, but it’s God’s will. He will pardon me if I committed excesses, but I don’t think I did,” Pinochet told Montiglio, Quezada said.
Montiglio is prosecuting a human rights case known as Operation Colombo, in which 119 leftists died in 1975. Pinochet is accused of responsibility in the deaths and of planting false press reports saying the armed rebels killed each other.
Montiglio has questioned Pinochet in his Santiago home three times recently as he weighs issuing a formal indictment.
Pinochet, 89 and now completely sidelined from Chilean politics, ruled the country from 1973 to 1990, a period when over 3,000 people died in political violence and tens of thousands more were tortured or exiled.
The Supreme Court has removed Pinochet’s immunity from prosecution in a handful of human rights cases, but he has never been tried because of mild dementia caused by frequent mini-strokes related to diabetes.
Montiglio in recent weeks ordered Pinochet, who also has heart problems, to undergo psychiatric and physical exams.
“The examinations prove conclusively that from a psychiatric standpoint, Pinochet is a normal person who is capable of withstanding a judicial process,” Quezada said.
Pinochet would be tried under Chile’s old judicial system, which does not have open court hearings, just private interviews that the prosecuting judge reviews on paper.
“The experts all agree that in these exams Pinochet . . . tried to make the symptoms of his neurological illness appear graver than they really are,” he said.
Pinochet spokesmen were not available for comment, and his chief attorney declined to speak with reporters.
Pinochet is also being investigated on accusations of embezzlement, fraud and tax evasion in a case that involves scores of foreign bank accounts and tens of millions of dollars.
Additional reporting by Erik Lopez