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  • The former president’s driver, doctors, two sociologists, and a CNI intelligence agent were found guilty and received between three to 10 years in prison.

    The former president’s driver, doctors, two sociologists, and a CNI intelligence agent were found guilty and received between three to 10 years in prison. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 January 2019

While undergoing surgery, Frei was injected with multiple doses of “toxic substances.”

After an 18-year investigation, six people were convicted for the 1982 murder of Chilean ex-President Eduardo Frei Montalva and sentenced up to 10 years in prison, Judge Alejandro Madrid ruled Wednesday.

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While undergoing surgery, Frei was injected with multiple doses of “toxic substances” containing thallium and sulfur mustard which induced him into a septic shock before death, an 811-page court record said.

The former president’s driver, doctors, two sociologists, and an intelligence agent from the National Information Center (CNI, the secret police of Augusto Pinochet) were found guilty of poisoning, covering up the crime, and serving as accomplices to the crime and received between three to 10 years in prison.

Nelson Caucoto, attorney for the Frei family, said, "We must rejoice that after a lengthy investigation, (the court) has issued a conviction in an unprecedented crime in Chile, the largest intelligence operation that has ever been developed in the time of the Republic."

Ex-president Ricardo Lagos said, “This is an unprecedented moment in the history of Chile, an assassination of this profile … ordered by Pinochet.”

Frei, who served as president from 1964 to 1970 representing the Christian Democrats, while originally supporting the coup eventually became one of the most vocal critics of the Augusto Pinochet's regime which became the bloodiest dictatorships in Chilean history. Frei's international ties, as a former president, became a threat to the dictatorship, particularly following Chile’s coup d’etat in 1973 which introduced Pinochet’s nearly twenty-year-rein.

"Frei Montalva was already a powerful figure because he was a former president, but he gained more strength by taking an active role against the dictatorship, signed the '13' Charter, as a rejection of the coup and years later headed the 'Caupolicanazo' in 1980,” said German Silva, a political analyst at the Universidad Mayor.

Christian Democratic Party’s lead lawyer, Luciano Foullioux, said, "Frei’s death left Pinochet’s opposition orphaned of a leader at a key moment. This ruling is a turning point -- it will redefine political parties’ relationship with the armed forces and will rewrite this country’s political history."

Lagos told El Pais that the conviction is only the beginning: "Understanding the political responsibilities will be our next task... in particular, the participation of high-level government authorities at the time of this crime. What was done was not only the task of a few agents or some doctors. It was a full-bodied conspiracy  that some have described as Machiavellian and criminal.”

During Pinochet’s dictatorship, which transpired from 1974 to 1990, over 40,000 people were imprisoned, tortured, and killed, official reports show. Researchers estimate that at least 3,000 were murdered while another 1,200 were forcibly disappeared.

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