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Chile judge indicts three Pinochet-era officers for 'Caravan of Death' killings

[JURIST] A Chilean judge has charged [press release, in Spanish] three former Pinochet-era military officers as accomplices for their role in the October 1973 killings of 14 leftist political opponents as part of the so-called "Caravan of Death" [BBC backgrounder]. Judge Victor Montiglio of the Santiago Court of Appeals indicted and ordered the arrests of General Gonzalo Santelices [La Nacion backgrounder, in Spanish], Lieutenant Pablo Martinez, and Major Patricio Ferrer on Monday. Santelices and Martinez were granted bail [La Nacion report, in Spanish] Tuesday, and bail is under consideration for Ferrer. The Court of Appeals has 48 hours to approve or deny the orders, during which time the men will continue to be held at a military police battalion. A lawyer for the Ministry of Interior's Human Rights Program [official website, in Spanish] said that the prosecution intends to appeal Montiglio's resolution to raise the charges of all three men to the level of principal actors rather than accomplices. Santelices's lawyer has alleged that the former general was only a student following orders [Radio Cooperativa report, in Spanish] to deliver the 14 members of the Socialist Party to the Caravan. Eight others have been charged with murder in the incident, including former General Sergio Arellano Stark, who is currently serving time for a separate conviction under house arrest due to dementia.

The Chilean Supreme Court sentenced five former military officers to prison [JURIST report] for their role in the Caravan of Death in October and found Stark responsible for leading the caravan under orders from General Augusto Pinochet [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to dispose of potential political opponents. In November 2006, Montiglio indicted Pinochet [JURIST report] and placed him under house arrest in connection with the firing-squad deaths of two of Allende's bodyguards. Pinochet died in December 2006 before being brought to trial [JURIST report]. More than 75 Chilean dissidents, many of whom had turned themselves in to authorities, are thought to have been killed by the "Caravan of Death."

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