SANTIAGO – A former Chilean dictatorship-era Air Force officer responsible for torturing and killing Alberto Bachelet, father of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, over four decades ago has been released due to mental health issues just three years after being sentenced.
Gen. Alberto Bachelet died in prison in 1974 after Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship convicted him of being a traitor. 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 leftist President Salvador Allende.
The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights determined that former Colonel Edgar Cevallos Jones, considered one of the most recognized torturers during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, suffers from dementia, and cited his “severe and irreversible” condition as grounds for his release.
Cevallos’ health was evaluated by the Air Force Hospital and the Punta Peuco prison hospital, which holds perpetrators of crimes against humanity during the Pinochet dictatorship from 1973 to 1990. The psychological assessments determined that Cevallos suffers from “mixed dementia” and added that his “daily activities should be performed with the help of others.”
According to the legal and medical team his condition “does not constitute a danger for himself or for third parties,” but Cevallos’ caretakers “must report every three months” on his condition to the Chilean justice system.
“The convicted person will not comply with the sanction of deprivation of liberty imposed by a sentence for having fallen into insanity and will be released and delivered soon to his family’s custody,” the Ministry of Justice announced in a statement.
Cevallos was sentenced in 2014, together with fellow Pinochet-era Colonel Ramon Caceres, to four years in jail for his role in the death of his former superior, Alberto Bachelet, in 1974.
Caceres and Cevallos arrested Bachelet in September 1973 for opposing the military coup against ousted President Salvador Allende and remaining loyal to the socialist president. The officers submitted Bachelet to several months of torture, including physical and psychological mistreament, being tied up and blindfolded and denied access to water.
Bachelet died at age 51 while in prison, reportedly due to a heart attack, but his death is considered an assassination as a result of the brutal torture he suffered at the hands of the dictatorship.
The following year, Bachelet’s family was also targeted as his wife, Angela Jeria, and daughter Michelle, now the president, were put under house arrest and later interrogated and tortured in an infamous secret prison in Santiago known as Villa Grimaldi. Both fled the country upon their release.
Cevallos, who is now 86 years old, was detained in January after being released from the hospital. Despite his 2014 sentence, his health has prevented him for serving time in jail.