World

Ex-general who led Chilean death squad gets six years

Chile's Supreme Court has jailed a retired general who led the "Caravan of Death," a military party that toured the country by helicopter ordering the deaths of suspected leftists after a 1973 coup.

'Caravan of Death' toured Chile after military coup in 1973

Chile's Supreme Court has jailed a retired general who led the "Caravan of Death," a military party that toured the country by helicopter ordering the deaths of suspected leftists after the late dictator Augusto Pinochet took power in a 1973 coup.

Sergio Arellano, 88, received a sentence of six years, a Supreme Court official said. Four other defendants, also retired military men, received sentences of four or six years.

Pinochet, who died in 2006, 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.

He was arrested in Britain in 1998 on an extradition warrant from Spain for alleged torture and murder, but was released in 2000 on health grounds.  He never faced a full trial for crimes committed during the 17-year dictatorship, when the government killed about 3,000 people and tortured another 28,000, most of them suspected leftists.

Official reports say the so-called caravan killed more than 90 political prisoners.

"I'm very happy," said Hugo Gutierrez, lawyer for the victims' families. "We'd been expecting this after fighting for more than 10 years."

Claudio Arellano, the ex-general's defence lawyer and nephew, called it an extraordinarily unjust sentence … not based on any real proof."  

"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," he said

With files from the Associated Press

now