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Thursday, October 14, 1999 Published at 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK


Chile requests Pinochet release

Pinochet says his extradition is "politically motivated"

Chile has formally requested that Britain release General Augusto Pinochet and stop extradition proceedings because the ex-dictator is too sick.

The pinochet File
Foreign Minister Juan Gabriel Valdes said on Thursday: "What is requested is that the (British) Home Secretary (Jack Straw) considers, in accordance with faculties given to him in the law, a decision of a humanitarian nature.

"This is the request that we put forward...and I can confirm that the document has been handed over to the Home Office," Valdes added.

Chile's government has long argued that Britain should release Pinochet and stop the extradition case because of his frail health and old age.

Suffered strokes

The former commander-in-chief of the army has diabetes and a heart pacemaker. He is also said to have suffered two minor strokes in the last month.

[ image: Pinochet was excused court appearance]
Pinochet was excused court appearance
Last week magistrates at Bow Street Court in London ruled that extradition proceedings against the general could go ahead, and committed Pinochet to face 34 charges of torture and one of conspiracy.

The general, 83, had been excused from attending court on health grounds and he attacked the ruling, saying it was politically motivated.

"It has long been clear that my extradition is politically motivated and being pursued clearly for political reasons," said a statement by Gen Pinochet read to the Bow Street court.

"Spain has not produced a single piece of evidence which shows that I am guilty. Not only that, I believe that Spain have not properly investigated any of these crimes and Spain does not even have jurisdiction to try me," said the statement.

[ image: The general's supporters burn the Union Jack in Chile]
The general's supporters burn the Union Jack in Chile
The general is under house arrest near London while his lawyers consider an appeal to the High Court.

More than 3,000 people died or disappeared during Pinochet's 17 years in power after he ousted socialist president Salvador Allende in a bloody coup.

Tens of thousands of Chileans fled the country rather than live under military rule.

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