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Pinochet suffers heart attack in new setback for prosecutors

[JURIST] Former Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] suffered a heart attack Sunday, but is in stable yet serious condition after undergoing emergency surgery. The development represents another setback to recent attempts [BBC timeline] by Chilean authorities to bring the ex-dictator to justice for dozens of human rights violations he is accused of committing during his military rule from 1973 to 1990. Pinochet has previously suffered from mild dementia, strokes, arthritis and other ailments that have been made his fitness to stand trial questionable. AP has more. BBC has additional coverage. El Mercurio has local coverage.

Pinochet, who turned 91 last week, enjoys general immunity from prosecution under the 1980 Chilean Constitution, but has slowly been stripped of this immunity [BBC report] in light of charges brought against him. Last Monday, a judge ordered he be placed under house arrest in connection with the executions of two of former President Salvador Allende's bodyguards during the so-called Caravan of Death [BBC backgrounder] that followed the 1973 coup in which Pinochet seized power. Pinochet was originally charged in the case in 2000, but in 2002 the Supreme Court of Chile [official website] ruled that he was too unwell to stand trial. Earlier last month, he was stripped of his immunity [JURIST report] in a case involving the 1974 disappearance of a Spanish priest. In July, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling [JURIST report] stripping Pinochet of immunity in a homicide case relating to the killing of two bodyguards for former Chilean President Salvador Allende. Last month, Pinochet publicly assumed full political responsibility [JURIST report] for the actions of his former regime.

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