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Friday, August 6, 1999 Published at 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK


Outcry over call for Pinochet release

Chilean exiles protest against moves to have General Pinochet freed

Lawyers in Spain working to bring to trial the former military leader of Chile, Augusto Pinochet, have reacted angrily to demands that he should be allowed to go home.

The pinochet File
They argue that Pedro Rubeira, the Spanish state prosecutor who asked for his release, is acting beyond his jurisdiction.

Opposition politicians have gone further describing the prosecutor and his colleagues as pro-fascist.

They have accused Mr Rubeira of working against Judge Baltasar Garzon, who issued the warrant for General Pinochet's arrest last October, and seeking to influence the Spanish national court's attitude to the case.

Judge Garzon is seeking the general's extradition to stand trial on charges of human rights abuses committed during his dictatorship between 1973 and 1990.

[ image: Chile says General Pinochet should be freed on humanitarian grounds]
Chile says General Pinochet should be freed on humanitarian grounds
The UK Government has said it will allow the general to go home should Spain withdraw its extradition request.

Mr Rubeira said that under the Spanish constitution, General Pinochet is immune from prosecution for human rights abuses committed during his 17-year rule because he was acting as head of state.

According to reports in the newspaper El Pais he argued that the general was as immune from prosecution as the king of Spain would be.

State opposition

Spanish state prosecutors have consistently opposed taking legal action against General Pinochet arguing the Spanish legal system is not legally capable of trying him on charges of torture and other human rights abuses.

General Pinochet is currently under house arrest in the UK, where next month a court is due to begin proceedings on whether he should be extradited to Spain.

Last week Chile asked Spain to allow an international arbitration panel decide on the case, prompting criticism from the Judge Garzon.

The news fuelled speculation that the two countries might be trying to hammer out a deal to enable the former leader to return home. The affair has strained diplomatic and economic relations between Madrid and Santiago.

However, earlier this week the Spanish Government denied that it had any plans to remove the case from the courts.

Chile says the general should be freed on humanitarian grounds as he is suffering from ill health.

Police in the UK supervising General Pinochet have dismissed as "rubbish" reports that he is seriously ill.

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