Santiago, Chile – Two former military officers were charged Tuesday with torturing former President Michelle Bachelet's father during the military dictatorship.
Gen. Alberto Bachelet died in prison in 1974 after Gen. Augusto Pinochet's military convicted him of being a traitor.
Santiago Judge Mario Carroza said last month that a forensic study found that the elder Bachelet probably died of heart problems caused by torture after he was arrested for opposing the 1973 military coup that overthrew Socialist President Salvador Allende.
Carroza on Tuesday charged retired colonels Ramon Caceres Jorquera and Edgar Benjamin Cevallos Jones with torture that led to the 51-year-old's death. Pinochet's regime also arrested the general's wife, Angela Jeria, and Michelle Bachelet in 1974. They were tortured in a secret prison for two weeks before leaving Chile.
It was a special moment in the history of Chile and these people felt they were in a war.
- Angela Jeria, wife of Gen. Alberto Bachelet
"It was a special moment in the history of Chile and these people felt they were in a war," Jeria told reporters at the hall of a Santiago court after the judge's decision was announced. "Now this country can wait for justice to be served."
Isidro Solis, a lawyer for the Bachelet family, said the general mentioned Caceres Jorquera and Cevallos Jones "innumerable times" during his interrogation days at the Chilean War Academy. Cevallos Jones' family has asked that he is placed under arrest at an air force hospital because the 82-year-old suffers from Alzheimer's disease.
Gen. Bachelet had told his family of being tortured by the same young air force members he had trained.
"They broke me from the inside," the general wrote in a letter from prison. "At one point they had morally torn me apart. I never thought to hate anyone, I always thought that the human being is the most marvelous of this creation and should be respected as such, but I found myself confronted with air force comrades whom I've known for 20 years, my own students, who treated me like a delinquent or a dog."
Carroza has also investigated events surrounding the death of Allende and hundreds of his allies who were slain or disappeared during Pinochet's dictatorship, which official estimates say killed 3,095 people.
In 1972, as other high-ranking military officers were conspiring with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to lay the groundwork for the coup, Allende put Bachelet in charge of Chile's commerce agency, where he was responsible for overseeing food sales nationwide. Many products were in short supply partly because Allende's right-wing opponents held goods back to create a sense of chaos.
Bachelet remained loyal to Allende to the end, refusing to endorse the Sept. 11, 1973 bloody coup even after Allende committed suicide while taking his last stand in the bombed-out presidential palace. He was arrested the same day, convicted that December and survived in prison until March 12, 1974.
His daughter returned from exile in 1979 and became Chile's first female president in 2006. She has run the U.N. women's agency since 2010, when she left the presidency and is expected to run in next year's presidential race.