Latin America & Caribbean

Chile justice: Row as General Héctor Orozco, 91, jailed

View of the Punta Peuco military prison, in the outskirts of Santiago, Chile, on September 4, 2015 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Gen Orozco is being held at Punta Peuco prison, a special prison for human rights offenders

A 91-year-old Chilean general has been jailed for crimes committed under military rule in a move his relatives have called "vindictive".

Police arrested Héctor Orozco this week after he failed to turn up to serve his 10-year prison term.

He was sentenced earlier this month for the killing of two activists under the rule of Gen Augusto Pinochet.

His brother says Orozco has senile dementia but the judge ruled he was lucid and able to serve the sentence.

Gen Orozco is a former director of Chile's infamous army intelligence service known as DINE.

According to official figures, more than 3,200 people were killed or disappeared during Gen Pinochet's rule, many of them by the intelligence services.

Shot in the back

The retired general was found guilty of the 1973 murder of left-wing activists Rigoberto Achú and Absalón Wegner.

The two were arrested shortly after Gen Augusto Pinochet came to power in a coup d'etat and accused of hiding weapons.

They were shot in the back while they were being transferred from the police station where they had been interrogated back to prison.

The military regiment under the command of Héctor Orozco alleged that the two men had been trying to escape.

But a report by Chile's truth commission dismissed that allegation as implausible, pointing to the fact that Mr Achú was not able to walk after having been tortured for months.

Apart from Orozco, two more retired officers and two civilians have been sentenced over the murder of the activists.

Justice or vengeance?

But Orozco's age has triggered a debate as to whether he should serve his sentence in prison.

His brother René Orozco said jailing him was "not justice but vengeance". "Next they'll be stripping him naked to humiliate him more," he said.

But at the sentencing, Judge Jaime Arancibia ruled that Orozco was "lucid and can be taken in to serve the sentence in normal conditions".

Government spokeswoman Paula Narváez said the government would stand firm on the issue.

"The country can open a conversation about this, but we as the government will not. The government will not change its position on the matter," she said.

Gen Orozco will serve his term at Punta Peuco prison, a special prison for human rights offenders.

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