Chilean judge makes Pinochet confront his former head of secret police

A judge ordered Chile's former dictator, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, to meet privately Friday with the man who once ran his secret police after each blamed the other for officers' human rights abuses.

The confrontation between Pinochet and retired Gen. Manuel Contreras _ now serving a 12-year sentence for the 1975 assassination of a dissident _ was arranged by Judge Victor Montiglio as one of his final actions before deciding whether to indict Pinochet for killings during his regime.

Montiglio said the meeting, held at a heavily guarded military club and closed to news media, was "a total success" and that the generals "behaved in an exemplary manner." He did not elaborate and it was unclear what effect the meeting would have on the indictment.

Contreras, 75, was the head of Pinochet's secret police, known by its Spanish acronym DINA, which has been accused of the worst human rights abuses under Pinochet's 1973-90 rule.

The generals were close during Pinochet's regime, but have grown increasingly antagonistic after Contreras accused Pinochet of abandoning many former aides being tried for human rights abuses. Pinochet blames aides for the abuses.

Many of them have been jailed, including Contreras. Before his current 12-year sentence, he has already served seven years for the 1976 killing in Washington of Orlando Letelier, a prominent Pinochet enemy. Contreras also faces other criminal charges.

Montiglio ordered the meeting after Pinochet told him under questioning last week that Contreras did not inform him of what the secret police were doing.

Montiglio must soon decide whether to indict Pinochet for the killing and disappearance of 15 dissidents in the early years of his dictatorship. Relatives of those victims have sued Pinochet, and another 30 relatives have filed a separate lawsuit against the former president.

Pinochet has been stripped of the immunity from prosecution he enjoys as former president, but four attempts to try him have been blocked because of his health.

Court-appointed doctors have said Pinochet, who turns 90 this year, has mild dementia, but recently declared him fit to stand trial. Pinochet also suffers from diabetes and arthritis, and has a pacemaker.

During Pinochet's rule, 3,197 people were killed for political reasons, according to an official report by the civilian government that succeeded him in 1990. More than 1,000 others remain unaccounted for and were presumably killed after being arrested by Pinochet's forces.

Pinochet may also soon be indicted on tax evasion and corruption charges stemming from his multimillion-dollar accounts overseas, AP reported. V.A.

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