Chilean president speaks of her torture under Pinochet

Santiago (AFP) - Chilean President Michelle Bachelet made rare public remarks Thursday on her detention and torture by the country's former military regime, saying "maturity" had helped her reconcile with the past.

Bachelet was arrested in 1975 by late dictator Augusto Pinochet's political police and held at the infamous Villa Grimaldi interrogation and torture centre in the capital Santiago -- an experience she discussed in an interview for a program on TV network Chilevision.

"I was mainly tortured psychologically, and some beating, but they didn't 'grill' me," she said, using political prisoners' slang for the practise in which detainees were strapped to a metal bedspring and given electric shocks.

"I was lucky compared to so many others. Many of them died."

Thousands of people were held at Villa Grimaldi during the dictatorship, of whom 236 were executed or disappeared.

Bachelet, 63, served as Chile's first woman president from 2006 to 2010, and returned to office this March for a new term.

Her father, Alberto, was an army general who opposed Pinochet's 1973 overthrow of socialist president Salvador Allende.

He was arrested in the aftermath of the coup and died in prison in 1974 from the torture his one-time subordinates inflicted on him.

The following year, the regime arrested Bachelet and her mother, Angela Jeria.

Bachelet, who was secretly a socialist activist at the time, was released after several weeks and went into exile.

"At first I was very angry, in infinite pain," she said Thursday.

"I wouldn't have imagined in that moment holding a dialogue with people I would later open a dialogue with."

She also spoke about her partner at the time, socialist leader Jaime Lopez Arellano, who disappeared during the 1973-1990 dictatorship.

"I would love to know what really happened to him: if he disappeared, if he's dead, if he's somewhere else," she said.

She addressed rumours that Lopez Arellano had given up the names of other activists under torture -- possibly to protect her.

"Some people say he gave up certain names because they told him if he didn't they would kill me and my mother in exile," she said.

"It was very hard for me because I had a strong sense of duty, because I was young. When you're young things are probably much more black and white. I felt like I had personally betrayed the cause," she said.

"Today I look at it with a lot more maturity."

More than 3,000 people were killed or disappeared and 38,000 tortured during Pinochet's rule.