Former Chilean military leader Augusto Pinochet charged

Chile's Supreme Court on Thursday dropped the charge against former military leader Augusto Pinochet, accusing him of masterminding the killing of dissidents in Operation Condor in the 1970's.

The court endorsed a June 7 ruling of the Santiago Appeals Court which considered as inadmissible the argument of Eduardo Contreras, a lawyer for victims' families.

Pinochet had been facing nine charges of kidnapping and one murder charge in the relation to Operation Condor, the 1970's military dictatorship's scheme to hunt down political opposition, Xinhua reminds.

Contreras considered the acquittal to be a shame. He said it was inexplicable that, after having stripped Pinochet of his immunity from prosecution one day, the next day the top tribunal could reject the case against him on procedural grounds.

The supreme court ruled on Wednesday that Pinochet could face criminal charges related to the murder of dissidents under his rule in 1975. It was the third time that Pinochet was stripped of immunity from prosecution, a privilege granted to former presidents.

The cases involved 119 leftists who were detained by Pinochet's secret police, but Pinochet's case, known as Operation Colombo, would be limited to 15 victims whose family members filed a lawsuit against him.

Pinochet, 89, ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, a period of time when more than 3,000 people died as a result of political violence.

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