SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) – The widow and five children of Gen. Augusto Pinochet were among 23 people indicted Thursday on charges of corruption related to the dictator’s U.S. bank accounts, a judge said.

Most of the suspects, including widow Lucia Hiriart and Pinochet’s grown children, have already been arrested, police director Arturo Herrera said.

Hiriart entered the Santiago Military hospital after suffering a rise in blood pressure and requested to remain under arrest there, said family lawyer Pablo Rodriguez. He said the indictments and detentions would be appealed.

“I am astonished by this illegal and abusive decision by the judge, and I am sure that it will be reversed by the Court of Appeals,” he said.

A group of about 20 Pinochet supporters, some carrying photographs and statuettes of the former dictator, gathered at the hospital chanting slogans in support of Pinochet and his widow.

Those indicted also included at least four retired army generals – Jorge Ballerino, Guillermo Garin, Juan Romero and Hector Letelier – as well as lower-ranking officers, Pinochet’s longtime secretary Monica Ananias and one of his lawyers, Ambrosio Rodriguez.

Judge Carlos Cerda said he ordered the arrests because of “solid indications that they had participated in the misuse of fiscal funds” during Pinochet’s 1973-90 dictatorship.

Cerda was to decide whether to keep them in custody or free them to stand trial.

Pinochet died in December 2006 at age 91 while under indictment on human rights and corruption charges.

The judge’s ruling is related to an investigation into the multimillion-dollar accounts the former ruler owned at the Riggs Bank in Washington and other foreign banks.

According to court papers, some of those accounts may have been fed with funds from the so-called Military House, an office that aided Pinochet’s military activities during the dictatorship. Pinochet remained an army commander during his long rule.

Cerda put the amount allegedly diverted from the Military House at $7.9 million.

Pinochet and his associates have steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, insisting the sources of the bank accounts were legitimate savings and investments, plus donations Pinochet received.

Retired Gen. Guillermo Garin, who was for years Pinochet’s spokesman and one of his closest aides, said “I have no responsibility whatsoever in this.”

President Michelle Bachelet said she would “await for the court’s decision with calm. No one in Chile is above the law.”

At least 3,197 dissidents were killed or disappeared during the dictatorship, according to an official report. More than 1,000 of them remain unaccounted for.

Many Chileans are bitter that Pinochet never was sentenced to prison time – unlike many of his subordinates, whom he blamed for the abuses. More than 500 former officers and security agents have been tried and many jailed, including 50 generals, and scores of trials are still pending.

AP-ES-10-04-07 1909EDT


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