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Sunday, January 17, 1999 Published at 03:02 GMT


I'll die in Britain predicts Pinochet

General Pinochet says he will hold up his hands to his fate

General Augusto Pinochet has reportedly told his family he is resigned to dying in the UK if necessary.

The pinochet File
The former Chilean ruler said: "I am resigned to my fate, even if that means dying here. This is part of my sacrifice to the fatherland," the Sunday Telegraph reports.

The Law Lords, the UK's highest-ranking members of the judiciary, hold a fresh hearing this week on whether Gen Pinochet will be allowed home or whether he must stay and face extradition to Spain.

Spanish authorities have requested his extradition to face charges of murder and torture during his 17-year leadership in Chile.

Gen Pinochet, 83, has been preparing papers for his defence, to try to show he outlawed the use of torture, but says if the Law lords rule against him, he is resigned to never returning home.

Wife's money worries

The newspaper reports that at a gathering of his family and close friends at his privately-rented home in Surrey, he said: "If this is the last thing I'll have to do, so be it."

[ image: Chileans have staged protests in London demanding extradition]
Chileans have staged protests in London demanding extradition
He reportedly told the gathering: "I am answerable to only two people - God and the Chileans - and I can stand honourably in front of both."

The Telegraph also says his wife, Lucia Hiriart, was furious at his attitude, asking: "What about the money, where's it coming from? What about your family - all we have is your pension."

The general is reported to have held up his hands and replied: "It's not my fault".

Government 'betrayal'

Gen Pinochet had planned to flee the UK soon after undergoing back surgery in October, and was booked on a flight home, sanctioned by the UK Foreign Office, the Telegraph also reports.

[ image: Lord Hoffman cast the crucial vote]
Lord Hoffman cast the crucial vote
But only 12 hours after his operation, he was arrested in his hospital bed, despite having received assurances from foreign office chiefs that there would be no arrest before his flight home.

Aides said it was "an extraordinary story of betrayal".

But friends say he has no regrets about coming to Britain.

"God sent me here to get better," he said.

As the Law Lords prepare to open the hearing on Monday, about 1,000 people are expected to attend a demonstration in London calling for him to face extradition.

The protesters will gather at Trafalgar Square in the heart of the capital.

And camps on both sides are stepping up their arguments, the paper reports.

A leading Spanish judge will back the case for extradition, while Baroness Thatcher's office is launching a pamphlet to improve the general's image.

Lord Hoffman, who cast a crucial vote against the Gen Pinochet in an earlier hearing, but did not declare close links to a human rights organisation, is under pressure to resign.

The first ruling - that Gen Pinochet must face extradition - was set aside by a fresh panel of Law Lords in an appeal.

They said Lord Hoffman risked not being seen to be impartial.

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