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BBC's Joshua Rozenberg
"He's hoping for a sicknote from the doctors"
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Wednesday, 5 January, 2000, 15:53 GMT
Pinochet completes health check

General Pinochet: Suffered a number of strokes since arrest

The former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has left the hospital where he has been examined to determine whether he is fit enough to be extradited to Spain.

If extradited General Pinochet faces trial for alleged crimes against humanity.

The general is said to have suffered a number of small strokes since his arrest in London more than a year ago. His supporters have called for his release on health grounds.

The examination was carried out at the Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, north London, at the request of the Chilean authorities.

The pinochet File
No immediate result is expected from the tests.

A Home Office spokeswoman said the team of doctors were led by two specialists - one in diseases of old age and the other a neurologist - adding that all of them are renowned experts in their field.

The general is 84, and is thought to be suffering from a heart condition, diabetes and depression.

The general's supporters want him released on health grounds
The official said the doctors' report would not be published and would be seen only by Home Secretary Jack Straw, government legal advisers and General Pinochet himself.

Mr Straw has the final say on whether the extradition to Spain goes ahead. The Home Office says he will consider whether the general's health is so poor he could never be extradited.

But any decision by Mr Straw would not interfere with the case in the High Court being brought by General Pinochet's lawyers.

They are mounting a legal challenge to the October court ruling that he should be extradited on 35 torture charges relating to alleged atrocities carried out under his orders during his 17-year rule in Chile.

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe said Mr Straw was bound by the decisions of the courts.

She said: "Having got this far, Jack Straw is bound by the decisions of the courts and must risk medical conditions being taken into account."

But Labour MP David Winnick, a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said extradition proceedings should continue "unless it can be shown without any doubt that Pinochet is mentally incapable of understanding what is going on".

He said: "From all we have seen in the past year there is no indication that that is the position and there would be much anger if the extradition proceedings were stopped and Pinochet returned to Chile."

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See also:
14 Oct 99 |  UK
Chile requests Pinochet release
05 Jan 00 |  Medical notes
Health and ageing
05 Jan 00 |  UK
Q & A: Too ill to be tried?
08 Oct 99 |  UK
Q & A: What next for Pinochet?
05 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Straw damned for 'contradictory' approach
11 Dec 98 |  The Pinochet file
The Pinochet case: Timeline
17 Oct 99 |  World
Protests on Pinochet anniversary
08 Oct 99 |  Medical notes
Minor strokes: The health risks
22 Oct 99 |  World
Pinochet lodges appeal

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