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Pinochet continues to recover, court frees him on bail

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dpa German Press Agency
Published: Monday December 4, 2006

Santiago- Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet on Monday continued to recover from a weekend heart attack, while the Appellate Court in Santiago decided to end the general's house arrest on bail. The latest medical report, released on Monday morning, said Pinochet's health improved over the past few hours, although his condition is still considered critical.

Pinochet's doctor Juan Ignacio Vergara said the former dictator, 91, will remain in the Military Hospital in the Chilean capital for seven to 10 days.

A new heart attack cannot be ruled out, due to Pinochet's additional health problems, including diabetes, kidney problems, minor cerebral haemorrhages and the use of a pacemaker, Vergara said.

The next medical report is expected at 2000 GMT.

Until he was taken to hospital in the early hours of Sunday after suffering a heart attack, Pinochet had been under house arrest in his mansion in Santiago since November 27 in the case known as the Caravan of Death.

The case involves killings allegedly carried out by a Chilean army squad that executed some 70 people shortly after the September 1973 coup that brought the general to power.

The court set bail on 1 million pesos (around 1,800 dollars).

Prosecution lawyers have claimed that the former dictator's latest health problem is "false," and pointed out that he has a history of falling ill when his judicial situation becomes more complicated.

Pinochet' chief legal council Pablo Rodriguez Grez dismissed those those accusations.

Thousands of civilians were arrested during the Pinochet regime (1973-90) for alleged political crimes. Based on testimony from survivors, more than 3,000 people "disappeared" and at least 30,000 were tortured.

The general is currently being prosecuted for two human rights cases, in addition to the Caravan of Death case. He is also being prosecuted in the so-called Riggs case, under which Pinochet allegedly kept around 26 million dollars in secret bank accounts.

Pinochet was taken to a hospital at 2 am local time (0600 GMT) on Sunday, and a catheter was used to remove a blockage from an artery in his heart. A stent was inserted to stabilized the artery so that there would be no new blockages.

Fluid had also collected in his lungs, but the former dictator was able to overcome that problem relatively quickly.

Vergara said Sunday afternoon that the general's condition would be considered critical for at least 48 hours due to his age and previously poor health.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency