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  • Apr 19, 2014
  • Updated: 5:26am
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CHILE

Former Chilean president Bachelet returns to torture centre

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 1:49am

The former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet nearly broke down while visiting the detention and torture centre where she was held during the 1973-90 dictatorship.

The site, formerly known as Villa Grimaldi, has been turned into a memorial garden called Park for Peace. But the trees where detainees were tied and a wooden tower to oversee prisoners still stand.

Bachelet was held there along with her mother, Angela Jeria, in 1975. It is an ordeal she prefers not to talk about, saying only that she suffered "physical hardships".

During an emotional ceremony on Tuesday to mark the 40th anniversary of the coup that brought the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet to power, Bachelet held a photograph of a woman who became one of the thousands of victims.

The jailed former chief of Chile's Dina secret police force, Manuel Contreras, told CNN Chile on Tuesday that Pinochet had ordered him to arrest Bachelet and her mother because they had allegedly planned to murder four air force generals. Contreras offered no evidence for that charge.

Contreras also said that people held at Villa Grimaldi were not tortured, but instead hypnotised during interrogation.

The former Dina chief has been in prison since 1995, when he was sentenced for the 1976 car bombing that killed former Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier and his assistant, Ronni Moffit, in Washington.

After her release, Bachelet went into exile. She began her political career after returning to Chile. Bachelet, elected president in 2006, is seeking a return to the presidency as front runner in the November 17 election.

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