Manuel Contreras
Manuel Contreras, the former chief of Pinochet's secret service, once said the guards at the prison were only there "to hold his cane".

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has ordered the closure of a luxury prison for Pinochet-era military officials convicted of crimes against humanity.

The Cordillera jail in Santiago allows its prisoners to have private bathrooms, a pool and tennis courts. It has hosted regular barbecues and managers have even tried to hire a private trainer.

Its 10 inmates, who include Manuel Contreras, former chief of General Augusto Pinochet's notorious DINA secret police, will now be moved off the army base to a no-frills prison to carry on their sentences along with other former military officers and collaborators.

"Taking into account three principles: first, equality under the law; second, the safety of the inmates and third, the normal and efficient running of the prison police force, I've taken the decision to close the Penitenciario Cordillera jail," Pinera said.

Pinera's decision follows widespread condemnation of the special treatment offered to the officers jailed for killings, torture and other abuses committed during Pinochet's 17-year dictatorship, which ended in 1990.

During Pinochet's reign over 3,000 people were killed or forcibly disappeared, while another 28,000 were tortured, including former president Michelle Bachelet.

Protesters across the South American nation expressed their outrage over the preferential conditions and benefits given to the convicts - which included hot showers and lots of natural light - compared to inmates in other prisons.

The controversial move also came after Contreras, who is serving combined sentences of more than 100 years for multiple murder and kidnapping, declared in a recent interview that the Cordillera prison guards were there only "to hold his cane".

Bachelet, who is the front-runner to win the 17 November presidential election, welcomed the move to close Cordillera, which was built in 2004 during the presidency of Ricardo Lagos.

"This means that the country is in a condition to do this," she said.