A French court began proceedings in absentia Wednesday against 14 former Chilean officials over the disappearance of four French citizens during the regime of Augusto Pinochet [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The defendants are primarily high-ranking military officers, including former defense minister Herman Brady-Roche and Juan Manuel Contreras Sepulveda, Pinochet's chief of secret police. The men are subject to international arrest warrants and face charges [AFP report] of kidnapping, arbitrary detention and torture. While the defendants are not present in court, it is hoped that the trial will offer some justice to the victims' families. The trial is expected to finish December 17, and if convicted, the men could receive life sentences.
In July, the Chilean Supreme Court released a report detailing the secret fortune of Pinochet, estimating it at over $20 million. This report joins another on Pinochet's hidden assets released last September [JURIST report]. That report concluded that Pinochet amassed USD $25,978,602 in accounts held outside of Chile, of which $20,199,753 is suspected to have been embezzled from official funds. The September report also concluded that the funds were accumulated [Los Tiempos report, in Spanish] over the period from 1973 to 2004, when a US Senate sub-committee investigation first uncovered the accounts [JURIST report]. Victim advocates say the report supports allegations that Pinochet was the recipient of bribes and had other unlawful sources of income.