Judge Strips Pinochet Of Immunity

A man speaks on a mobile phone in front of a securities firm's electronic stock board in Tokyo, Japan April 28, 2010.
AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi
A court opened the way for former dictator Augusto Pinochet to be prosecuted in 59 cases of torture and kidnapping that took place at one of his regime's secret prisons, one that once held President-elect Michelle Bachelet and her mother.

The president of the Santiago Court of Appeals, Juan Escobar, said on Friday the justices voted 13-5 to lift Pinochet's immunity, but the ruling that must be upheld by the Supreme Court before the 90-year-old former strongman can be tried. Pinochet's defense said an appeal will be filed.

Bachelet and her mother, Angela Jeria, were arrested 15 months after the 1973 coup led by Gen. Pinochet and were taken to Villa Grimaldi, where both were tortured. Their cases, however, are not among the 36 kidnappings and 23 cases of torture that led to the removal of the legal immunity Pinochet enjoys as former president.

Judge Alejandro Solis, who asked the court to remove immunity, described the Villa Grimaldi as "one of the worst houses of torture in Santiago," echoing a description used by Bachelet's mother.

Pinochet has been stripped of immunity and may face trial in three other cases, two on human rights charges, one for tax evasion and corruption, and is currently free on bail. The rights charges in previous cases included killing and kidnapping, but this was the first time torture was mentioned.