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Thursday, December 10, 1998 Published at 06:17 GMT


Joy and fury over Pinochet decision

The funeral of one of Pinochet's alleged victims on Wednesday

There has been a mixed reaction in Chile to the UK's decision to allow extradition proceedings against General Pinochet.

The pinochet File
Opponents of General Pinochet and human rights activists reacted with delight to the decision by the UK Home Secretary, Jack Straw.

"We are very happy, very content with this momentous decision, even more so because it falls on the 50th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights," said Viviana Diaz, vice president of the protest group, Families of the Detained/Disappeared.

The BBC's Ben Brown reports on reaction to the news in Santiago
The decision to allow extradition proceedings came as Santiago laid to rest one of the former military leader's alleged victims.

The remains of teacher Mario Ramirez were only found two weeks ago - 25 years after his disappearance following the general's coup.

Fury and frustration

Meanwhile, the general's supporters in Chile were furious. The Pinochet Foundation in Santiago said they were ''frustrated and angry'' at what they see as an attack on their sovereignty.

The BBC's James Reynolds: Many Chileans are expecting a period of instability
The Chilean ambassador in London, Mario Artaza, who has been recalled immediately for consultation, denounced the decision and said his government would use all possible means to reverse it.

The Chilean army said the decision was "abusive and humiliating".

[ image: Two women who lost relatives react to the news]
Two women who lost relatives react to the news
Chile's vice-president Raul Troncosco also announced a meeting of the National Security Council, a body which only convenes in times of national crisis, and he appealed for the country to remain calm.

Prior to the decision, General Pinochet's supporters had threatened to hold more demonstrations.

There is heavy security surrounding the British ambassador's residence and the Spanish Embassy.

Our correspondent in Santiago James Reynolds says many Chileans believe they are in for a period of instability.

But he says so far life is continuing as normal and no one thinks the country's democracy is at risk.

Long wait ahead

The BBC's Daniel Schweimler: Campaigners now believe General Pinochet will one day stand before a Spanish court
In Spain, where the case has been headline news, campaigners for the general's extradition were overjoyed.

Our correspondent says they are aware there may be a long wait while the extradition process goes ahead.

But they are now confident that the former military leader will one day stand trial in the country.

Spain's conservative government has repeated that it will not interfere in the case and will respect the decision of the courts.

'New era' for rights

Amnesty International, which has campaigned for General Pinochet to face trial, said Mr Straw's decision signaled "the birth of a new era for human rights''.

"On the very eve of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the decision recognises the memory of the thousands who were killed, tortured and 'disappeared' during Pinochet's period in office" Amnesty said in a press release from London.

"Jack Straw should be congratulated for not bowing to political and diplomatic pressure", it said.

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