Court postpones ruling on new attempt to try Pinochet on human rights charges

A court on Wednesday postponed a decision on whether former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet will be stripped of immunity from prosecution to allow his trial on yet another human rights case.

If stripped of immunity, Pinochet could face charges for the disappearance of 26 dissidents and the torture of 23 others at a secret detention center known as Villa Grimaldi.

The 21 justices of the Santiago Court of Appeals decided to review the transcript of a court-ordered conversation between Pinochet and retired Gen. Manuel Contreras, the head of a feared security police during Pinochet's 1973-90 regime, before further rulings, court president Juan Escobar said.

The confrontation between Pinochet and Contreras _ now serving a 12-year sentence for the 1975 assassination of a dissident _ was ordered after Pinochet testified that Contreras did not inform him of what the secret police were doing.

Pinochet is under house arrest in the disappearance of six dissidents in the early years of his regime. They were among 119 people, some of whose bodies were later found in Argentina, who disappeared in a case known as Operation Colombo.

He also faces charges of tax evasion and corruption related to his multimillion-dollar overseas accounts.

Courts have blocked trials against Pinochet four times on health grounds. He suffers from mild dementia, diabetes, arthritis and has a pacemaker.

Doctors who recently examined him, however, said he is fit to stand trial, AP reported. V.A.

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