SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Thursday ordered shut a prison where 10 former agents of dictator Augusto Pinochet are serving sentences for human rights violations, a move that came amid public anger over their relative comfortable conditions.
The inmates, including Manuel Contreras, former chief of Pinochet’s notorious DINA secret police, will be moved from the Penitenciario Cordillera in Santiago to a jail where other former military officers and collaborators of the dictatorship are being held.
“Taking into account three principles: first, equality under the law; second, the safety of the inmates and third, the normal and efficient running of the prison police force, I’ve taken the decision to close the Penitenciario Cordillera jail,” Pinera, a conservative, said at the presidential palace in Santiago.
The move came after Chilean media revealed that those at Penitenciario Cordillera, which was built in 2004, enjoyed preferential conditions and benefits compared to inmates in other prisons in the South American nation.
The 10 inmates live in five cabins, each equipped with a private bathroom, can play tennis for two hours a day and are in the process of getting a personal trainer, according to public documents from a recent court-ordered visit to the facility.
Under Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship, over 3,000 people were killed or forcibly disappeared, while another 28,000 were tortured, including ex-President Michelle Bachelet, who is the front-runner to win the presidency later this year.
Referring to the decision to close the prison, Bachelet said the country “now has the political conditions” to adopt this measure, something that would have been nearly impossible only a few years ago when Pinochet, who died in 2006, was still alive.
Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Paul Simao