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Sunday, July 18, 1999 Published at 07:35 GMT 08:35 UK


Pinochet: 'I'm a political prisoner'

The general was interviewed at his rented home in Surrey

Former Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet has said he regards himself as a political prisoner in Britain and strongly denied any direct role in human rights abuses.

"As general of the republic I never accepted torture," he said in an interview published in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

The pinochet File
"The first thing I asserted was the development of a person's rights, providing security to those people who are taken under arrest," General Pinochet insisted.

The 83-year-old general, who is wanted in Spain on charges of murder and torture, said that any abuses would have been carried out without his knowledge.

"I didn't have time to control what others were doing," he said.

The BBC's Joshua Rozenberg: "General Pinochet regards himself as a political prisoner"
"I take political responsibility, not judicial. Otherwise we would all be guilty. (US President Bill) Clinton would be guilty of certain things in Kosovo."

General Pinochet said he had concentrated on turning his country away from the Marxist path charted by democratically elected President Salvador Allende, whom he helped overthrow in a 1973 coup.

"I had to sort out the debts. We had inflation running at 500%. We had to restore the land so there would be food for the people. It would be too long to list everything," he added.

Kidnapping claim

More than 3,000 people were killed or disappeared during his 17-year dictatorship, which ended in 1990.

The general who was arrested in Britain last October when he arrived in London for medical treatment, claimed he had been "kidnapped" and accused the British authorities of "playing with the life of a person who is very old".

He went on: "It's like being on a wheel. Promise, appeal, ruling, appeal. The only political prisoner in England is me."

The general's extradition case is due to start on 27 September after a series of legal twists.

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