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Chile charges former air force colonels with 1974 torture death of brigadier general

Chile on Tuesday arrested and charged two retired air force colonels for their roles in the 1974 death of an air force brigadier general who was also the father of Chile's first female president. Colonels Ramon Caceres and Edgar Ceballos were charged with orchestrating the torture that apparently killed Alberto Bachelet after he was arrested in 1973 and court-martialed for his loyalty to then-president Salvador Allende, who was deposed and committed suicide during the bloody military coup of notorious Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet [BBC profiles]. Bachelet was said to have died of a heart attack in prison at the age of 51, but a forensic study ordered by Judge Mario Carroza reported last month that Bachelet in fact died as a direct result of the torture he suffered during his confinement [AFP report]. Bachelet's wife, Angela Jeria, and daughter Michelle were also arrested and held at a torture center for two weeks before being released and fleeing Chile in exile. Michelle Bachelet [official profile] returned to Chile in 1979, serving as president from 2006-2010, and is currently the first Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women [official website]. Carroza has investigated the deaths of Allende and hundreds of his allies who were murdered or disappeared under Pinochet's regime [AP report], which "purged" more than 3,000 people in the years following the 1973 coup.

Carroza ordered Allende's body exhumed last year as part of investigations into his death [JURIST report] that began in January 2010. Allende, a Marxist, was met with opposition after winning the 1970 elections in Chile from those fearing his presidency would support a pro-Soviet communist government. The 1973 coup, backed by the US, was followed by a 17-year military regime lead by Pinochet. In an extraordinary statement released on his 91st birthday Pinochet publicly assumed "full political responsibility" [JURIST report] for the actions of his military regime. Pinochet nonetheless justified the military coup against Allende that brought him to power as having being necessary to preserve Chile's integrity amid "the continuation and worsening of the worse political and economic crisis than one can remember." Pinochet died [JURIST report] in 2006 at the age of 91 without ever facing trial for multiple human rights abuses and tax evasion charges against him.

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