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Chile orders probe into death of Salvador Allende

Chile Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] Judge Sergio Munoz [official profile, in Spanish] on Thursday ordered an investigation into the death of former socialist president Salvador Allende [BBC profile] during the 1973 coup [BBC backgrounder]. Since the coup, Allende's death has been ruled a suicide. The investigation into Allende's death is part of a larger probe into the 1973-1990 military dictatorship [press release, in Spanish] of General Augusto Pinochet [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who seized power after the coup. Prosecutor Beatriz Padrals will investigate 726 cases [press release, in Spanish] of alleged human rights abuses allegedly committed during the Pinochet-regime. Hundreds of Chilean officials are also under investigation for human rights abuses committed under Pinochet, including the so-called "Caravan of Death" [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive] following the coup, the death or disappearance of more than 3,000 people, and 28,000 cases of alleged torture.

Allende, a Marxist, was met with opposition after winning the 1970 elections in Chile from those fearing his presidency would support a pro-Soviet communist government. The 1973 coup, backed by the US [JURIST report], was followed by a 17-year military regime lead by Pinochet. In an extraordinary statement released on his 91st birthday Pinochet publicly assumed "full political responsibility" [JURIST report] for the actions of his military regime. Pinochet nonetheless justified the military coup against Allende that brought him to power as having being necessary to preserve Chile's integrity amid "the continuation and worsening of the worse political and economic crisis than one can remember." Pinochet died [JURIST report] in 2006 at the age of 91 without ever facing trial for multiple human rights abuses and tax evasion charges against him.

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