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Chile judge in Pinochet relatives embezzlement case recuses himself

[JURIST] The judge presiding over the embezzlement proceedings against relatives of the late former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archive; BBC profile] stepped down from the case Monday after the defendants' lawyers accused him of bias. The Santiago Court of Appeals has not yet decided whether it will accept Judge Carlos Cerda's recusal. The accusations of bias stem from comments that Cerda made to reporters, saying he believed Pinochet had illegally obtained his fortune. Cerda's comments previously earned him rebukes from Chile's Supreme Court, which investigated him [JURIST report] but has so far declined to remove him from the proceeding. AP has more.

Cerda indicted [PDF text, in Spanish] 23 family members and former associates of Pinochet on corruption charges in October. The 23 accused [list, in Spanish] include five of Pinochet's children, his widow, his longtime secretary, and three retired army generals. Cerda said the charges stem from allegations that these individuals aided Pinochet in "the misuse of fiscal funds" during his 1973-1990 military regime. Pinochet died of a heart attack [JURIST report] in December 2006 without ever facing trial on multiple charges of tax evasion and human rights violations. Nevertheless, Chilean authorities began an investigation [JURIST report] earlier this year to determine whether Pinochet ordered state officials to murder former Chilean President Eduardo Frei Montalva [EB profile] in 1982.

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