The casket holding the remains of former Chilean President Salvador Allende was removed Monday from the family mausoleum at the Santiago General Cemetery in order to begin investigations into the circumstances of his death, which according to the most widely accepted version was due to suicide.

The process was presided over by Judge Mario Carroza and was performed by coroner's office specialists and police with a team of forensic experts and anthropologists, five of them from other countries.

Several members of Salvador Allende's family, including Sen. Isabel Allende, the former president's daughter, were also present at the disinterment.

Allende, who governed Chile from 1970-1973, died at La Moneda presidential palace on Sept. 11, 1973, during the coup staged by Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

"As a family we wish to express above all our satisfaction at the progress achieved in this transcendental judicial process to establish the truth about what occurred on that tragic Sept. 11, 1973," the senator said when the casket was taken from the mausoleum.

The family has "the conviction that President Salvador Allende took the decision to die as a politically coherent gesture in defense of the mandate given him by the people," Isabel Allende said.

Relatives asked for this disinterment "in hopes that the results will dispel any doubts" about his death "and at the same time will provide a court ruling on the circumstances that led to the crimes committed" under the dictatorship, the senator said.

After the casket was exhumed, it was placed in a hearse for removal to the coroner's office, where the corresponding investigation will be performed, though a new autopsy will not be included in the process.

The disinterment was ordered by the judge after seeing a report from the coroner's office in April indicating a "conflict" between the results of the official autopsy ordered by the dictatorship and a police investigation of Allende's body at the scene of his death.

Allende died during the bombardment of La Moneda, and the most widely credited account, accepted even by his family, is that the former president shot himself with an assault rifle that had been given him by Cuban leader Fidel Castro.