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Wednesday, January 13, 1999 Published at 10:25 GMT

World: Americas

Preliminary hearing for Pinochet

The British House of Lords -- the country's highest court -- is holding a preliminary hearing today to decide whether the Chilean government and prominent human rights groups can participate in a new extradition case against the former military ruler of Chile, General Augusto Pinochet.

Seven of Britain's most senior judges will hold a new hearing next Monday into whether General Pinochet who is wanted in Spain to face charges of crimes against humanity enjoys immunity from prosecution.

The Spanish judge who is calling for the general's extradition, Baltasar Garzon, will attend today's hearing -- along with representatives of the Chilean government, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.

A previous ruling by the House of Lords that General Pinochet could be extradited to Spain was later set aside.

The general's lawyers argued that one of the law lords, who had links with human rights group Amnesty International, could have been biased.

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