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Five Pinochet-era officials jailed

Published: 7:14AM Thursday October 16, 2008 Source: Reuters

Chile's Supreme Court jailed five retired military officials for involvement in the Caravan of Death, the only case of dictatorship-era killings for which Augusto Pinochet was arrested in Chile.
   
The Caravan of Death was a military committee that travelled around Chile by helicopter after Pinochet's 1973 coup ordering the deaths of suspected leftist opponents.
   
"I'm very happy. We'd been expecting this after fighting for ... more than 10 years since lodging our case about the so-called caravan of death," said Hugo Gutierrez, lawyer for the victims' families.
   
Sergio Arellano Stark, who headed the committee, received a sentence of six years, a Supreme Court official said.

The other four defendants received sentences of four or six years.
   
"(It is) an extraordinarily unjust sentence ... which is not based on any real proof," said Claudio Arellano Parker, Stark's defence lawyer and nephew.
   
"It is quite clear that when an 88-year-old is sentenced for events that happened 35 years earlier, they are in no position to properly face the punishment."
   
Pinochet was put under house arrest in 2001 in connection with the case, the only time he was detained in Chile in connection with abuses stemming from his iron-fisted 1973-1990 rule.
   
Pinochet, who died in 2006, never faced a full trial for crimes committed during his 17-year dictatorship, when the government killed about 3,000 people and tortured another 28,000 - most of them suspected leftists.