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Wednesday, August 4, 1999 Published at 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK


World

Chile denies 'secret Pinochet deal'

Charges against General Pinochet "embarrassed" Spain

Chile has strongly denied that it has exerted behind-the-scenes pressure on Spain to halt the process intended to bring former military leader General Augusto Pinochet to trial.

The pinochet File
Reports that the two countries had been discussing bringing an early halt to attempts to extradite General Pinochet provoked furious protests from judges and human rights campaigners on Tuesday.

Chilean Foreign Minister Juan Gabriel Valdes says all he did was to write to his Spanish counterpart, Abel Matutes, "setting out Chile's position".


Mr Valdes talking to the BBC's George Eykyn
"That letter was published in the Chilean papers and abroad," Mr Valdes told the BBC. "These are not secret negotiations at all. I cannot imagine a conversation which is less secret than the one we have had with Mr Matutes."

Chile wants to persuade Spain to accept the alternative of international arbitration which could involve the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

This would mean an early return to Chile for the 83-year-old former leader who is currently under house arrest in Britain.

'Judicial solution'

Mr Valdes denied that Chile was seeking to sideline the whole Pinochet case, saying it was the hearings at the House of Lords in London which has caused the delays.


[ image: Relatives of the
Relatives of the "disappeared" have campaigned to bring Gen Pinochet to trial
"What we are seeking is a solution following judicial means and we don't see that this needs political decisions," he told the BBC.

The judge leading the campaign to have Gen Pinochet extradited to Spain, Baltasar Garzon, has written to Mr Matutes demanding more information on Spanish-Chilean contacts.

"This court continues with proceedings against Augusto Pinochet Ugarte on charges of genocide, terrorism, torture and forced disappearances," Mr Garzon wrote.

He said any information sent to Chile might interfere with the case and affect "the principle of independent justice".

Extradition choices

If Spain drops the extradition request, there are only two things that could stop Gen Pinochet from leaving the UK.


[ image:  ]
The first is if another country immediately submits an extradition request. The second is the unlikely event of a decision to prosecute him there.

A number of other countries have issued or are considering issuing extradition warrants but the Spanish warrant takes precedence.

The UK Home Office has confirmed that if Spain dropped its extradition request, the general, who has been detained in the UK for the past 10 months, would be free to leave.

The House of Lords is expected to make a decision about extradition in September.

Charges brought against Gen Pinochet, have been an embarrassment for the Popular Party government of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

Spain is the biggest foreign investor in Chile and tens of thousands of Spaniards live in the country.

Amnesty International has argued that there is no real prospect of Gen Pinochet being tried in Chile or by an international tribunal.

It said extradition to Spain was the only means by which Gen Pinochet could be deprived of a "wall of impunity".

Gen Pinochet has claimed sovereign immunity to prosecution for crimes committed between 1973 and 1990.



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Internet Links


The President of Chile

Amnesty International

US House of Representatives Law Library - Spain


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