Chile is to investigate whether Augusto Pinochet's regime murdered the Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda after it seized power in a bloody 1973 coup.
A judge, Mario Carroza, will examine claims that agents injected poison into Neruda's stomach while he was treated in Santiago's Santa Maria clinic for prostate cancer, which until now was blamed for his heart failure.
If confirmed the allegation would rank as one of the dictatorship's vilest murders given Neruda's status as a revered literary great at home and abroad. Chile's communist party demanded the investigation after the poet's former driver, Manuel Araya, said Pinochet henchmen injected the 69-year-old on the day he died, September 23, 1973, 12 days after the coup.
Neruda, a communist and political activist, had just written an article excoriating the military regime and defending his friend Salvador Allende, the socialist president who died during the coup.
Guillermo Teillier, president of the communist party, told the appellate court there was a moral requirement to clarify Neruda's cause of death.
"We are acting responsibly, reasonable doubts exist," he told journalists.