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Chile judge orders body of ex-President Salvador Allende exhumed

Chilean Judge Mario Carroza on Friday ordered the exhumation of former president Salvador Allende [BBC profile] as part of investigations into his death [JURIST report] that began in January. The order follows a request [CNN video, in Spanish] for a new autopsy of the former president from Allende's daughter, Senator Isabel Allende, and other relatives who want to determine the causes of his death. Allende died in a 1973 coup [BBC], in what has since been ruled a suicide. However, many human rights groups and Allende supporters question the suicide and believe he was killed by soldiers during the coup. The investigation into Allende's death is part of a larger probe into alleged human rights abuses under 1973-1990 military dictatorship [press release, in Spanish] of General Augusto Pinochet [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who seized power after the coup. The autopsy is expected take place later in May.

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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