Court Upholds Indictment of Pinochet

An appeals court Monday upheld the indictment and house arrest of former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet (search) on human rights charges during his 17-year military regime.

A panel of the Santiago Court of Appeals voted 3-0 to hold the indictment, said Judge Juan Escobar (search), a member of the panel.

The decision came as Pinochet, 89, recovered at the Santiago Army Hospital from a stroke he suffered Saturday.

"The appeal has been unanimously rejected," Escobar said, prompting applause and cheers among relatives of victims of the Pinochet regime awaiting the decision at the court building.

Pinochet's defense lawyer immediately met to prepare an appeal before the Supreme Court.

Pinochet was indicted a week ago by Judge Juan Guzman (search), who charged him in nine kidnappings and one homicide during his 1973-90 dictatorship.

Guzman issued the indictment as part of his investigation into the so-called Operation Condor, a plan coordinated by the military dictatorships ruling in several South American countries in the 1970s and '80s to suppress dissent.

Pinochet, meanwhile, was undergoing a series of new tests at the hospital, where doctors said no date had been set yet for his release.

Doctors said that by Sunday, he had recovered consciousness and mobility that had been impaired by the stroke.

After visiting her father, Pinochet's daughter, Lucia, said he "is doing better now, thank God. But he was real bad at one point."

Foes of Pinochet claimed the hospitalization was a ploy to avoid trial, a claim angrily rejected by those close to the retired general. His associates said those with doubts about his condition should go the hospital and see for themselves.

Small groups of foes and supporters of Pinochet demonstrated exchanging insults in front of the downtown court building as the three judges deliberated.

After Monday's ruling was announced, lawyer Eduardo Contreras, representing several victims of the of the Pinochet regime, said that "it has been proved today that Pinochet is totally fit to stand trial."

Lorena Pizarro, leader of an organization of relatives of dissidents who were killed under Pinochet, said the former dictator "should now actually be put under arrest, either at the hospital, if he wants, or at his home."

According to an official report by the civilian government that succeeded Pinochet in 1990, at least 3,190 people were killed for political reasons during his long reign.