A Pinochet trial in France?

22 November 2004 by Arnoud Grellier

The first trial of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet could take place in France - without him. On 22 October, the Paris prosecutor's office called for the case to be referred before the Paris criminal court, where the former president would be tried in absentia for the "abduction and torture" of several French nationals and Franco-Chileans who disappeared between 1973 and 1975.

Six years after the start of investigations, victims' families are hopeful that examining judge Sophie Clément will support the prosecution's motion. The ruling could be announced in the first quarter of 2005 and the trial could then open "at the end of 2005 or early 2006" says Sophie Thonon, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs. "This is extremely significant," said the lawyer, because "it will perhaps be the only judgement handed down in this whole affair," alluding to current criminal proceedings against Pinochet in Chile that hinge on a ruling by Judge Juan Guzman. The latter, who received three medical reports on the accused's psychiatric health in mid-October, has to decide whether Pinochet is fit enough to stand trial.

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