A Chilean appeals court has reviewed a defence request that charges be dropped against General Pinochet because in July 2002 the Supreme Court ordered similar charges dropped, of murder and kidnapping during his 1973-’90 rule, on grounds that he is ill.

The head of General Pinochet’s legal defence team, Pablo Rodriguez, said that if the Appeals Court turns down their request, he will appeal to Chile’s Supreme Court.

The case could put General Pinochet in the dock, for the first time, for around 3,000 politically-motivated killings conducted during his rule, a prospect long awaited by a population who claim to have suffered under his ruthless rule.

But his defence has been ridiculed following an appearance on a television programme in November 2003 which shows General Pinochet with no hint of dementia, even portraying the 89-year-old joking and saying he feels like “an angel”.

He delivers clear and coherent answers on economic, political and social issues during the interview for the US television network.

And in August this year, he gave detailed answers to another judge investigating a bank account containing US$15 million ($A19.8 million) that the dictator held at Riggs Bank in Washington, considered to be the proceeds of corruption.

General Pinochet’s charges of murder and kidnapping are based on victims of Operation Condor, a conspiracy of 1970s South American military dictatorships to kill their opponents and spirit away their bodies.

The case is likely to reactivate dormant cases in Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, against those who participated in Operation Condor.

It is the second time that legal proceedings have got underway relating to General Pinochet for abuses during his 17-year-long regime.

In 2001, he was indicted for the killings carried out by the Caravan of Death, a mobile death squad that executed 75 political prisoners in the weeks after the 1973 coup that brought the general to power. He was then ruled physically and mentally unfit to stand trial.

But Judge Guzman said three doctors who examined General Pinochet convinced him that he could stand trial.

General Pinochet is awaiting the outcome at his estate, west of Santiago, according to members of his entourage.