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Jose Canovas, 78, defied Chile's tyrant

Judge Jose Canovas, who challenged the former military regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet with his investigation of a triple political murder, died late Friday, his family said. He was 78.

Judge Canovas had been hospitalized for two weeks and was being treated for heart ailments, according to the family.

The judge gained international prominence in 1985 when, after a four-month investigation, he indicted several police officers in the throat-slashing assassination of three members of the then-banned Communist Party.

His action triggered a major political crisis for the Pinochet regime, which included the resignation of the commander of the military police, Gen. Cesar Mendoza.

Mendoza was one of four military leaders who staged the 1973 coup that overthrew the leftist government of President Salvador Allende and brought Pinochet to power.

Judge Canovas' challenge of the powerful military regime made him a hero to the nation's human rights organizations and Pinochet's political opponents.

Months later, however, the Supreme Court threw out the indictments issued by Judge Canovas, and the case remains unsolved.

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