World

Chile: Pinochet-era General Commits Suicide Before Jail Transfer

Policemen stand guard at the residence entrance of suicide victim, former Chilean Gen. Odlanier Mena, in Santiago, Chile, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. The 87-year-old retired general was serving time for human rights violations but was allowed weekend home visits. He committed suicide at his home, hours before he was to return to his prison cell. Mena was the first director of the National Information Center, the secret police force created by dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

Policemen stand guard at the residence entrance of suicide victim, former Chilean Gen. Odlanier Mena, in Santiago, Chile, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. The 87-year-old retired general was serving time for human rights violations but was allowed weekend home visits. He committed suicide at his home, hours before he was to return to his prison cell. Mena was the first director of the National Information Center, the secret police force created by dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

A former Pinochet-era spy chief committed suicide shortly before he was to be transferred from a luxury prison for dictatorship-era military officials to a lockup with fewer benefits, Chile military officials said.

Army Lt. Col. Claudio Rojas said retired Gen. Odladier Mena shot himself in the head Saturday in a stairwell outside of his home in Chile's capital. Mena had taken advantage of prison benefits that allowed him to visit his home.

The 87-year-old was the first director of the National Center of Information, the successor to dictator Augusto Pinochet's feared intelligence agency.

In 2009, Mena was convicted in three 1973 murders tied to him and other military officials sent north to press the fight against political opponents. He began his six-year prison sentence in 2009 and was scheduled to be released in Dec. 2014.

President Sebastian Pinera announced earlier this week that the Cordillera prison for officials convicted of crimes against humanity, which had a pool and tennis courts, would be closed and its inmates transferred to Punta Peuco, another, less-luxurious special jail for human rights offenders.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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