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Monday, October 19, 1998 Published at 07:23 GMT 08:23 UK


Pinochet supporters protest in Chile

Communists in Santiago back the arrest

Violence has erupted in the Chilean capital, Santiago, as demonstrators supporting the former dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, protested against his arrest in London.

[ image: Pinochet supporters say UK has betrayed the general]
Pinochet supporters say UK has betrayed the general
Riot police used tear gas and water cannon to hold off some of the estimated 1,000 protestors, who tried to break through police lines into the British embassy.

Police arrested General Pinochet at a London clinic on Friday at the request of Spanish judges investigating killings allegedly committed during his 17-year reign in Chile.

BBC South American Correspondent James Reynolds: Arrest has provoked angry response
His supporters said it was a betrayal by the UK and pointed to General Pinochet's tacit support for Britain during the 1982 Falklands War. They said they would continue their protest until he was released.

Legal wrangling

The decision over his extradition to Spain for trial on murder charges may take months.

The BBC's Cary Johnston interviews protesters against Gen Pinochet: "We want justice"
The Spanish Government has 40 days in which to make a full case, before UK Home Secretary, Jack Straw, rules on the application.

Extradition is likely to be fiercely opposed by Chile, which claims that as a life senator, General Pinochet should enjoy diplomatic status.

This has been dismissed by UK Trade and Industry Secretary, Peter Mandelson, who said most Britons would find it "gut-wrenching" to give General Pinochet - a "brutal dictator" - diplomatic immunity.

On Monday, the Chairman of the House of Commons human rights group, Labour MP Ann Clwyd, will table a parliamentary motion calling for "close co-operation" with the Spanish authorities.

Joy in London

The 82-year-old general was detained by police while in a private London hospital for a back operation.

It is thought that he is being held in a clinic where he is recuperating after surgery.

Demonstrators supporting the arrest gathered outside the clinic, chanting their approval.

[ image: General Pinochet: Alleged involvement in more than 4000 political killings]
General Pinochet: Alleged involvement in more than 4000 political killings
Spanish judges Baltasar Garzon and Manuel Garcia Castellon want to question the general about the deaths of Spanish citizens in Chile between 1973 and 1983.

General Pinochet seized power from socialist President Salvador Allende in a violent coup in 1973, and ruled Chile for 17 years, during which time 3,197 political opponents were allegedly killed.

A further 1,102 people are still unaccounted for.

The arrest was welcomed by politicians and human rights groups.

[ image: Campaigners in London support the arrest of General Pinochet]
Campaigners in London support the arrest of General Pinochet
Amnesty International spokeswoman Virginia Shoppee said General Pinochet's arrest served as a warning to other dictators that they could not escape their past crimes.

"I certainly think this is a lesson that is very important.

"It is possible for the UK Government to show that they are very serious about human rights."

BBC South American Correspondent James Reynolds reports on conflicting demonstrations in Santiago
General Pinochet retired as commander-in-chief of the Chilean armed forces last March, but has an unelected seat for life in the Chilean Senate.

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