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Monday, January 18, 1999 Published at 12:02 GMT


Judges re-run Pinochet hearing

Centre of attention: General Pinochet on his way to his extradition hearing last year

Lawyers for the former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet are set to make an unprecedented second appearance before the UK's highest court in a renewed attempt to block his extradition to Spain.

The pinochet File
Seven Law Lords, the most powerful judges under UK law, will re-hear arguments on whether, as a former Head of State, he can be tried for alleged human rights abuses.

The hearings come after an earlier verdict to allow extradition proceedings was set aside because one of the Law Lords, Lord Hoffmann, failed to disclose his links with the human rights organisation Amnesty International - a decision which made British legal history.

On Monday, some of General Pinochet's most vociferous opponents held a media conference to protest against the general's immunity from prosecution in Chile. They called for him to be extradited to Spain to face charges there.

[ image: Disappeared: Pinochet blamed for 3,000 deaths]
Disappeared: Pinochet blamed for 3,000 deaths
Speakers at the conference, organised by the Chile Committee for Justice, included Fabiola Letelier, a leading Chilean human rights lawyer.

Ms Letelier rejected the Chilean's Government's contention that the general's arrest and detention in the UK was an infringement of Chilean sovereignty.

She said if anything, it was the "systematic" violation of human rights during the former dictator's 17-year rule that had impinged the sovereignty of all Chilean citizens.

Andy McEntee, Chairman of Amnesty International, told the conference Chile had no intention of trying Gen Pinochet.

He said: "In the absence of a state putting on trial one of its own people for crimes against humanity, the obligations of the international community come into play."

The BBC's Joshua Rozenberg: "Anti-Pinochet demonstrators were out in force"
Anti-Pinochet protests also took place on Sunday in London, as campaigners marched through the city calling for the 83-year-old general to be extradited.

Some of the marchers, many of whom are Chilean exiles, wore white masks symbolising 3,000 people who "disappeared" during dictatorship.

The Spanish judge who launched the extradition moves is arriving in London amid tight security after fears of an attack by pro-Pinochet extremists.

Judge Baltasar Garzon, both praised and criticised at home, has laid charges of genocide, terrorism and torture against the general.

He will attend the House of Lords as an observer.

Police acted on the judge's international arrest warrant in October last year after the general turned life-senator had come to London for medical treatment.

'I'll die in Britain'

The BBC's James Reynolds: Pinochet's supporters are optimistic that this will be the final hurdle
While Chile's legal team returned to London to make their case, General Pinochet was reported in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper as saying that he was resigned to dying in the UK as the extradition battle drags on.

He has been staying under police guard in a rented mansion on the exclusive private Wentworth estate in Surrey, south of London.

The newspaper reported that he had described his fate as his "sacrifice to the fatherland".

Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Howard has also written to Robin Cook over allegations that the Foreign Office had assured Chile that the general would be free to leave the UK - hours before he was actually arrested.

"It would, in effect, mean that Senator Pinochet was entrapped into staying into this country by false assurances from your department," wrote Mr Howard.

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