Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006) was a Chilean dictator born in Valparaíso, Chile. A career army officer, he led the military coup overthrowing the Allende government in 1973, establishing himself at the head of the ensuing military regime. In 1980 he enacted a constitution giving himself an eight-year presidential term (1981–1989). A plebiscite held in 1988 rejected his candidacy as president beyond 1990, but he retained his post as commander-in-chief of the army until 1998.

In October 1998 he became the centre of international attention when he was arrested in London, following a request from Spain for his extradition to stand trial for ‘crimes of genocide and terrorism’, in which some of the victims had been Spanish nationals. The arrest caused tension between UK and Chile, and civil unrest in Chile between Pinochet supporters and opponents. At the beginning of 2000, Pinochet remained under house arrest in the UK, pending the outcome of legal procedures, but the UK government returned him to Chile on the grounds of ill health. Chile’s Court of Appeal decided to strip Pinochet of immunity from prosecution, and he was later ordered to stand trial.

In 2001 a Santiago appeals court voted in favour of suspending proceedings against him on the grounds that he was mentally unfit to stand trial, and in 2002 the Chilean Supreme Court ruled that proceedings against him be suspended for good. However, in 2004 the Court of Appeal stripped him of immunity from prosecution, thus paving the way for a trial on charges of human rights abuses during his rule.

Pinochet died December 10, 2006, never having stood trial for the crimes for which he was accused.

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