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The BBC's Valerie Jones reports
"Today's ruling will renew hopes that the former Chilean leader will be made to stand trial"
 real 28k

The BBC's Jane Peel
"The judge said there was much to be gained by disclosing the report"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 15 February, 2000, 18:15 GMT
Pinochet medical must be released

protests Protesters say General Pinochet must face charges


UK Home Secretary Jack Straw must disclose a crucial medical report on former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, the High Court in London has ruled.

The pinochet File
The panel of three senior judges - Lord Justice Simon Brown, Mr Justice Latham and Mr Justice Dyson - decided Mr Straw acted unlawfully in refusing to disclose the report.

After spending three days considering the issue, Lord Justice Brown said: "We allow this application to the extent we hold the medical report should be disclosed to the four requesting states under conditions of strict confidentiality."

This means Belgium, Spain, Switzerland and France will be presented with the report, and given time to consider its contents before making their own comments.

The Home Office later confirmed copies of the report had been dispatched to the relevant embassies. They have until 5pm on 22 February to make their observations.

'Step closer'

The decision was met with jubilation by human rights campaigners in Santiago, Chile.

Viviana Diaz, head of Families of the Detained Disappeared, said: "We are one step closer to seeing Pinochet being extradited to Spain to face the courts there."

In Spain Judge Baltasar Garzon, who has spearheaded the campaign to extradite the general, was also reported to have welcomed the move.

The secret medical report at the centre of the latest ruling prompted Mr Straw to indicate last month that he was "minded" to declare the 84-year-old former dictator unfit to stand trial on torture charges, and that therefore he should not be extradited to Spain.

Lawyers for Belgium, supported by six human rights groups, argued that his decision was fundamentally flawed and the countries seeking General Pinochet's extradition should be allowed access to the report so that they could make a "meaningful" response to the home secretary.

supporters Pinochet supporters say he is too frail to stand trial
Speaking from outside the High Court, the BBC's Daniel Sandford said the latest move could set the final ruling back several weeks.

He said: "If the countries feel unhappy with the result of that report, they could go back and say to Jack Straw, 'We think you have made the wrong decision'. If he then ignores them, they can challenge him again.

"This now relies on whether or not these countries agree on the medical report, however it is now open to General Pinochet's lawyers to challenge this decision."

Anti-Pinochet pressure groups have cast doubt on claims that the general's health has seriously worsened.

The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, which has called for a new examination of the general to be carried out with a psychiatrist, said the latest reports about his health fitted a familiar pattern.

A spokesman said: "Whenever there is an important decision about to be made about the Pinochet case... we see claims being made about his health.

"We know he is suffering from several complaints but that should not divert from the necessity of the details of his condition being made available to those states seeking his extradition."

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See also:
15 Feb 00 |  UK
Protesters hail Pinochet ruling
15 Feb 00 |  Americas
Clashes after Pinochet ruling
13 Feb 00 |  UK
Pinochet family awaits decision
13 Feb 00 |  UK
Doubt over Pinochet health fears
12 Feb 00 |  UK
Pinochet 'depressed over delays'
09 Feb 00 |  UK
Judgment reserved in Pinochet case

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