Pinochet undergoes medical tests to be judged

Former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet on Tuesday underwent a series of court-ordered medical tests to determine whether he can stand trial on human rights charges. Pinochet remained for two and half hours at the downtown Hospital of the Catholic University, one of the most modern in the country, but reporters were kept at distance by police, and were only able to see his heavily guarded motorcade entering and leaving the place.

No details were available on the exams, which according to the court order should include X rays and blood and urine tests, among others.

The tests will continue next with two separate sessions for psychiatric and neurological tests. They are conducted by doctors approved by Judge Victor Montiglio, who ordered them following a Supreme Court ruling, the AP says.

The top court last month stripped the 89-year-old retired general of the immunity from prosecution he enjoys as former president, a mandatory step before he can be tried for his alleged role in the disappearance and killing of 15 dissidents during his 1973-90 regime, a case known as "Operation Colombo."

But, the court ruled, that before judge Montiglio can actually bring Pinochet to trial, the former dictator must undergo the medical tests to determine whether he is fit to face the court.

The Supreme Court has twice in the past blocked attempts to try Pinochet on human rights charges citing health reasons. Pinochet has been diagnosed a mild case of dementia caused by several strokes since 1998. In addition, he suffers from diabetes, arthritis and has a pacemaker.

"Operation Colombo" involves the killing in 1975 of 119 dissidents whose bodies were found in Argentina. Pinochet has been charged for only 15 victims whose relatives sued him.

Pinochet's regime said the killings were the result of clashes among rival armed opposition groups.

The current case is only one of a number of legal problems for Pinochet, who faces dozens of lawsuits stemming from human rights abuses during his regime, a time when 3,197 dissidents were slain or disappeared, according to a report by an independent commission appointed by the civilian government that succeeded him in 1990.

Pinochet also lost his immunity in a case involving alleged tax evasion related to multimillion-dollar (multimillion-euro) bank accounts he owns abroad. An appeal is pending before the Supreme Court.


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