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Thursday, March 11, 1999 Published at 15:26 GMT

UK Politics

Bid to try Pinochet in UK fails

General Pinochet: Fighting extradition

A bid to have former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet tried in the UK for the alleged kidnap, torture and murder of a British man in Chile has been rejected.

The pinochet File
Attorney General John Morris has told MPs that he has rejected an application by the family of William Beausire to mount a private prosecution against General Pinochet.

Mr Morris there was "insufficient admissible evidence" to allow the prosecution.

[ image: John Morris: Law cannot be applied retrospectively]
John Morris: Law cannot be applied retrospectively
The move comes as General Pinochet waits on bail in the UK for the Law Lords to rule on whether he should be extradited to Spain.

If he is sent to Madrid he is likely to face genocide charges in connection with the murder, disappearance and torture of thousands of people in the years after the 1973 coup which brought him to power.

Mr Morris stressed the two British laws under which Mr Beausire's family wanted to mount their action, the 1988 Torture Act and the 1982 hostage-taking legislation, could not be applied retrospectively.

Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn who raised the issue in the Commons later said he was furious about the decision.

He said he thought the attorney general had been "badly advised".

A prosecution might not have succeeded he said, "but at least Mr Morris should allow the family to try".

'A crime against humanity'

Mr Corbyn is the latest in a series of MPs and MEPs who have raised Mr Beausire's case in the past 20 years.

He told the Commons, Mr Beausire was murdered because his sister, who still lives in Chile, was living with the leader of a left-wing group.

There was a "mountain of evidence" against the general, he said.

Mr Beausire, a stockbroker, had been abducted at Buenos Aires airport in Argentina in 1974 by DINA, the Chilean intelligence service, he said.

[ image: Jeremy Corbyn:
Jeremy Corbyn: "Mountain of evidence" against General Pinochet
The Briton was then sighted in prison in Chile in 1975, where he was tortured and murdered, the MP added.

The British Embassy in Santiago had written a "long memo" in 1977 to then Foreign Secretary David Owen, now Lord Owen, stating it believed Mr Beausire had been murdered in a Chilean jail, he said.

The case was a "clear violation of laws on crimes against humanity", Mr Corbyn said.

Mr Morris replied: "I know the concern you feel about this matter.

"May I assure you that I consider personally all the applications - more than five - that I have received regarding this matter."

Mr Morris said he had looked at "all possible appropriate evidence, time after time".

[ image: The general is awaiting the Lords' verdict in a Surrey mansion]
The general is awaiting the Lords' verdict in a Surrey mansion
"If any further additional evidence comes before me, I will look at it with the same care and attention that I have given to all the other applications."

General awaits fate

General Pinochet was arrested in London last year after Spain requested he be extradited to stand trial for alleged human rights crimes.

The Chilean Government has argued that as a former head of state he enjoys immunity.

That was rejected by the Lords in November last year when they ruled the general could be extradited.

But the case had to be heard a second time as one of the peers who made the initial ruling, Lord Hoffman, has close links with the human rights organisation Amnesty International.

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