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Former Pinochet agents, soldiers ordered to trial

  • Story Highlights
  • Chilean judge orders prosecution of 98 former Pinochet soldiers, agents
  • Order is related to investigation of 60 people who disappeared in 1970s
  • Hundreds were killed or disappeared during Augusto Pinochet's rule
  • Suspects are expected to appear in court in Chile on Tuesday
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SANTIAGO, Chile (CNN) -- Nearly 100 former Chilean soldiers and secret police will be prosecuted on charges they tried to cover up the disappearance and deaths of 119 people during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, a judge ordered Monday.

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Former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet, pictured in 2000.

The disappearances occurred between 1974 and 1975, during what was known as "Operation Colombo," which targeted Pinochet's opponents. Chile's military government published information outside the country to make it seem that the victims had died fighting guerrillas.

Chilean magistrate Victor Montiglio based his order on an investigation that says 60 victims were illegally arrested by the Office of National Intelligence (DINA) and kept in detention centers before they disappeared.

DINA's former director, retired Gen. Manuel Contreras, has already been sentenced to 250 years in prison in other cases involving human rights violations. He found out about Montiglio's ruling in his prison cell.

Minister of Justice Carlos Maldonado said the former soldiers will be taken to military compounds after they appear before Montiglio on Tuesday. The civilian suspects will be jailed in the Santiago Uno and Punta Peuco penal facilities, which are outside Santiago, he said.

A U.S. backed-coup toppled democratically elected President Salvador Allende in 1973, after which Pinochet took power.

In March 2008, a court in Chile sentenced 24 former police officers for their roles in kidnappings, torture and murders that happened just after the coup, Chile's Judicial Authority said. Thousands of Chileans were victims of the national crime wave.

Pinochet, whose reign lasted from 1973 to 1990, was widely blamed for encouraging subordinates to kidnap, torture and kill people with suspected leftist ties, such as journalists and union members.

Years after he left power, courts indicted Pinochet in two human rights cases, but judges threw out the charges on the grounds that he was too ill to stand trial.

Pinochet died in 2006.

CNN's Alberto Pando contributed to this report.

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