Global Policy Forum

Chile Finds Rails Possibly Used in Deaths

Associated Press
September 22, 2004

Divers working under a court order on Wednesday found several pieces of railroad track believed used to sink the bodies of dissidents killed during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Judge Juan Guzman said he ordered the search after receiving "abundant information" about the rails' use. He called the operation a success but didn't elaborate further.

The judge, who has been conducting an investigation into reports of the missing, has questioned a number of active and retired military men believed to have participated in the flights to throw the bodies. One of them, retired Air Fore Sgt. Juan Carlos Molina, appeared on the state television two years ago saying the bodies where thrown tied to the rails and covered with bags. The state television repeated part of the interview Wednesday night.

The military admitted in 2000 that some 200 bodies of dissidents killed in the early years of Pinochet's 1973-90 dictatorship were thrown into the ocean and lakes from aircraft. So far, only one of those bodies has been found. Human rights activists and testimony before several courts, including some from repentant security agents, indicate that the bodies were tied to pieces of railroad track iron to ensure they would sink.

Guzman ordered the divers to search off the coast of Quintero, 110 miles northwest of Santiago, as part of his investigation into the disappearance in 1976 of 10 members of the leadership of the Communist Party. One of them was Jorge Munoz, the husband of the current president of the party, Gladys Marin.

Guzman indicted Pinochet on human rights charges in 2001 and kept him under house arrest for 43 days. The charges were eventually dropped after the Supreme Court pronounced Pinochet unfit to stand trial on health grounds, as he has been diagnosed with a mild case of dementia, and suffers from diabetes and arthritis and has a pacemaker. Guzman is now seeking to try Pinochet on different human rights charges, and last month succeeded in having the Supreme Court to strip Pinochet of the immunity from prosecution he held as former president. The judge is now expected to set a date to question the former dictator.

The case is one of hundreds of criminal lawsuits faced by Pinochet stemming from the abuses under his regime. According to an official report, 3,197 people were killed for political reasons during his reign.

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