Two charged in death of Chilean ex-president's father

Chile charged two former officers in Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship with being the "co-authors" of the torture that killed the father of former president Michelle Bachelet.

Alberto Bachelet was arrested in 1973 and court-martialed for treason for having been a member of leftist president Salvador Allende's government prior to his overthrow by Pinochet's military junta.

Retired air force colonels Ramon Caceres and Edgar Ceballos were arrested on Tuesday and charged with being the "co-authors of the crime of torture that caused the death" of Bachelet, Judge Mario Carroza said.

Bachelet, an Air Force brigadier general who opposed Pinochet's 1973 coup, was imprisoned until his death on March 12, 1974, when he was said to have died of a heart attack at the age of 51.

A medical report ordered by the courts and released in June concluded that Bachelet died as a direct result of the torture he suffered during his confinement.

Bachelet already had heart problems, and had even taken time off from work before the coup to deal with it, the general's widow Angela Jeria said. "His comrades must have known that," she said.

"Now, in this country, we can expect the justice system to do its job," Jeria said in reaction to the arrests. "So many people have lost their lives and the causes were never even investigated."

Caceres and Ceballos are accused of orchestrating Bachelet's "cruel and inhuman, and humiliating, treatment" at the Air Force War Academy in Santiago, Carroza's statement said.

Following their arrest, they were transferred to the El Bosque Air Base in the capital.

"I ran into Air Force comrades that I had known for 20 years, even my own students, who treated me like a criminal or a like a dog," Bachelet later wrote in a letter to his son.

"He was a beloved and respected officer," said former Chilean Air Force commander Ernesto Galaz, who shared captivity with Bachelet.

"He participated in many sports, cultural and social activities, and had a broad intellect and commitment to service," Galaz told AFP.

Born in Santiago in 1922, Bachelet was the third of five brothers that came from a family of French descent that arrived in Chile to work in the wine industry.

As part of the trial proceedings, Michelle Bachelet -- president of Chile 2006-2010 and the current head of UN women's agency -- testified alongside her mother about their illegal detention at torture centers in 1975.

After the regime released them, the two women fled the country to exile. Michelle Bachelet returned in 1979.

Some 3,000 people were murdered under Pinochet's 1973-1990 regime, while another 37,000 people are believed to have been imprisoned and tortured, according to rights groups.

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