France - Chile

Paris court condemns Pinochet’s junta members in absentia

Bernard Alexandre Chanfreau, shows a photo of his brother Alphonse Rene Chanfreau and three others victims who disappeared during the Chilean dictatorship in the 1970's
Bernard Alexandre Chanfreau, shows a photo of his brother Alphonse Rene Chanfreau and three others victims who disappeared during the Chilean dictatorship in the 1970's Reuters

A Paris court has condemned high officials of Pinochet’s military junta to sentences of 15 years to life in prison in absentia. The 14 officials were on trial on charges of kidnapping, illegal detention and torture over the disappearance of four French citizens.

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The former officials on trial included Manuel Contreras the former head of Chile’s Dina secret police, which played a central role in Chile “dirty war” against the left after Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet came to power in 1973.

It is estimated that 3,000 people were killed or disappeared in the 1970s.

Contreras is currently serving a life sentence in jail for assassinating the defence chief of leftist president Salvador Allende, who was toppled by Pinochet.

The court acquitted one of the 14 officials tried. The junta members were tried in absentia which means that the culprits are unlikely to serve any of the sentences handed down in Paris.

However, lawyers and relatives of the victims say a guilty verdict is significant.

"Of course, Chile does not extradite its nationals but Chile will be their prison and if they cross a border, they will be arrested," Sophie Thonon, a lawyer for families taking a civil suit against the men, said before the trial.

The four French citizens disappeared in 1973 and 1975. They included members of Chile’s Marxist revolutionary MIR, a priest and a former advisor to Allende.

Pinochet died in December 2006 at a military tribunal in Santiago, having succeeded in evading trial in the late years of his life.
 

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