Pinochet's children released from Chilean jails

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SANTIAGO, Oct 6 (Reuters) The sons and daughters of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet were released from jail today after spending two nights behind bars accused of siphoning off public funds for their own use.

The late general's two sons and three daughters were arrested on Thursday as part of a probe into charges their father stole millions of dollars during his 1973-1990 rule and channeled it into private bank accounts.

But a court ruled today they could return home. They remain under investigation.

The court order also applied to Pinochet's 84-year-old widow, Lucia Hiriart, who was one of 22 suspects detained on Thursday as part of the probe. She became ill after being informed of her arrest and spent the past two nights in the hospital.

Chilean state television showed Pinochet's eldest son, Augusto, and his sister Lucia walking out of jails in the capital Santiago to be met by waiting reporters.

''This country should think and analyze what's happening,'' Augusto said before climbing into a car and being driven away.

The Pinochet family denies any involvement in embezzlement.

Pinochet, the most notorious of the military leaders who dominated South America through much of the Cold War, died last December at age 91 without ever being brought to trial.

The corruption charges tarnished his image in his latter years, even among those who supported him politically.

Pinochet grabbed power in a US-supported coup against elected socialist President Salvador Allende.

More than 3,000 people died in political violence during his dictatorship. Some 28,000 people were tortured and hundreds of thousands of Chileans went into exile.

Under Chilean law, suspects can be jailed while an investigation is underway even if they have not been found guilty of any crime.

REUTERS TB AS0229

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